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October 2, 2014

Yom Tov Message from Rabbi Felt

by vths

Dear Parents,

With the upcoming holiday of Simchas Torah, Rabbi Stulberger, Dr. Jones and I would like to bring to your attention something that concerns us. We have become increasingly aware that some of our students have been consuming alcohol without parental approval. This tends to happen at Kiddushim, Sholom Zochors, weddings, when parents are out of town or any time they can get access. Unfortunately, teens can also abuse alcohol under the guise of religion. They may, for example, drink dangerously – sometimes even with adult approval – on Simchas Torah or on Purim. As you know, alcohol impairs judgment, and when consumed irresponsibly, often lead to reckless and dangerous behavior among teenagers. With the added factor of a teenager’s prevalent sense of invincibility, those who do drink are at a very real risk of putting themselves in true peril. This is a pressing concern that needs to be addressed as a community, consisting of parents, educators, shuls and schools.

Just as our Rabbis had the foresight, wisdom and intellectual honesty to establish fences (gedarim) around our commandments so as to prevent us from giving in to difficult temptations, we must be brave enough to acknowledge the temptations our young people face and establish boundaries for them as well. Most importantly, we have a religious imperative to safeguard life and our bodies, “V’nishmartem M’od L’nafshotechem,” as they are holy gifts from our Creator. We have a religious, as well as communal, obligation to take a proactive stand in protecting our children from harm. There are two ways of dealing with this issue: we can either pretend it is not happening – putting our heads in the sand and our children at risk – or we can confront it openly. It is present in the school and we at Valley Torah are ready to confront it head on.

As a school, we will partner with you to help our students stay safe and out of trouble, but it is ultimately your rule-setting and vigilance that will help your children make wise decisions, now and in the future. Therefore, I am adding a set of guidelines that you may wish to implement with your children.

The bottom line is simple: be sure to know what your child is doing and with whom. Although this may give the impression that we do not trust our teens, the contrary is actually the case! We are open and honest about the temptations and invitations facing our teenagers from all communities (even the most sheltered children in religious enclaves often fall victim to these situations). We are giving our children the tools to prevent situations in which they are at risk of injuring themselves and innocent people. While some of our teenagers will find these rules initially oppressive, if they become the norm in our community, our children will find comfort in the safety net that we have created for them.

As a school, we will make it clear to the students that anyone consuming alcohol will be subject to significant disciplinary sanctions up to and including expulsion. In the case of any issue of abuse or distribution, we will thoroughly investigate the allegations while vigorously safeguarding individual privacies. Students abusing alcohol will be referred to a school-approved therapist/program. Students engaging in illegal activities will be dealt with to the full extent of school policies and the law. Our common interest in enforcing these policies is to protect our students – your children – and provide them with any support or guidance they may require.

Also, please know that even the most savvy and connected parents are sometimes at a loss when it comes to issues such as these. We have an excellent team in the school that would be glad to discuss any of your concerns and provide guidance. If you are aware of any issues you would like to bring forward, please do not hesitate to contact the administration.

Gmar Chasima Tova and may this year be one of health and true happiness.

Felt Tips

  • Speak to your child about your policies regarding alcohol or any other illicit substance.
  • Have an exit plan for your child. If your child call for help – you will assist with “no questions asked.”
  • Let your child know explicitly what the consequences are if you find they have been abusing any substance.
  • Make sure you know where your child will be at all times and VERIFY what he tells you.
  • If something sounds fishy, follow up with more questions or a surprise visit.
  • Come up with a very clear solution if his plans need to change at the last minute.
  • If there is going to be alcohol – make sure that there is an adult in charge.
  • Be extremely cautious If your child calls around curfew time and asks to stay over.
Read more from Rabbi Felt

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