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They clear bloodshot eyes with Visine. They hide liquor in Nalgenes. They take Ritalin to boost test results. They numb out on stolen Vicodin and Percocet. They post party alerts on Facebook. They text-message dealers during class. They’re some of Wayzata High’s finest students. How the world of chemical abuse has changed since you were in school.

Photo by Jonathan Chapman

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Still, for other parents, it’s a matter of complicity. They go to bed upstairs, while a group of kids in the basement are left alone to party freely. “Many times we hear that parents are there and kids are drinking, but they don’t try to stop it,” says Barb Beise, Wayzata High’s assistant activities director, who’s worked at the school for 14 years. “That’s been a big shift since I’ve been here.”

Jessica’s parents had noticed her pulling away, her change in friends, her laissez-faire attitude and disrespect, but they hadn’t connected those things with her drinking—mostly because they didn’t know how much she was drinking. “It should’ve made the alarms go off—we can see that now—but it didn’t,” Steve Garlock admits.

They might have had a better idea about their daughter’s use if they’d looked at her Facebook page. Social media has become what yearbooks were decades ago: a way for kids to create their identity. Jessica saw the pages of other kids partying. “There are so many pictures of friends drinking and partying—I wanted to be part of that,” she says. “If you have a lot of pictures of you partying, you’re going to be called to go party.”

Or invited on Facebook. Kids set up exclusive groups that can only be accessed by those who’ve been invited, then send messages to the group about parties. Some kids even use the exclusive groups to let others know they have drugs to sell. Of course, Jessica’s parents would not have been able to see any of this because she blocked her profile from being viewed by anyone other than friends.

Jessica’s first trip to the emergency room wasn’t enough to scare her. “My parents told me, ‘You almost died,’ but I said, ‘Probably not, if I’m still alive,’” Jessica says. “I figured that happened to everybody who got drunk.”

She started drinking at school, filling her water bottle with vodka. “I don’t know how teachers wouldn’t have smelled it because I would take swigs during class—or maybe they did know,” she says. By the summer, she was drinking daily. One night, high on coke and alcohol, she and her boyfriend had unprotected sex—a common scenario. Jessica got pregnant, but she chose not to keep the baby. The guilt and depression that followed drove her to drink more. Booze wasn’t hard to come by. Friends had fake IDs. She texted her orders. “It was easy to make plans to get a bottle in front of my parents because I could text in front of them and they’d never know,” she says.

After two more trips to the emergency room, Kelly and Steve Garlock realized their daughter had a serious problem with alcohol. They sent her to a boarding school in Iowa for kids with behavioral issues. Jessica returned home 14 months later and stayed sober six days. She ran away a couple of times and stayed with friends. Her parents sent her to treatment in the spring.

Jessica managed to graduate from Wayzata High in 2009, but she wasn’t ready to stay sober. Not until she hit bottom, which happened one night when she and her boyfriend of four years had a drunken argument at a party—and he broke her hand. “I realized nothing good comes from drinking,” she says. “I would never have been in that situation if I wasn’t drinking.”

Both Jessica and her boyfriend have since quit using. She was sober when they conceived their second child. She plans to raise the child with her parents’ help, and they have set up a nursery in their Plymouth home. “I’ve been sober through the pregnancy,” says Jessica, now 18. “That’s what has motivated me.”

BY SENIOR YEAR, Derek’s use had turned him into someone he didn’t want to be. He started stealing: alcohol from unlocked garages, drugs from cars parked on the street, and, at parties, cell phones and iPods from fellow students. He turned violent, picking fights. “I became the shady one no one wanted to talk to,” he says. “I got really lonely.”

His girlfriend broke up with him. His best friend went away to treatment. He got stoned by himself, and his loneliness deepened.

When a friend returned from treatment, he invited Derek to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. “I connected with everything everyone said,” he says. “I thought, ‘I’m screwed.’”

He quit using for six months, relapsed, then quit again. He’s been sober since December.

He has started repairing his relationship with his mom. Now, he tells her the truth. She can trust him, he says. Many times in high school, when she was making it difficult for him to get high, he would tell her that he hated her. “He has since hugged me and thanked me,” Deb says. “He says, ‘Mom, I know you did that because you love me.’”

John Rosengren, a 1982 graduate of Wayzata High, is a Minneapolis freelance writer. His last piece for the magazine was a profile of Minnesota attorney general Lori Swanson

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

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Comments, page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 Next »
May 23, 2010 05:45 pm
 Posted by  anonymous0808

To the author of this, did you actually speak to any high school students? If you did, I think this article would be written from a non-bias perspective. I feel really bad for the upcoming classes at Wayzata High School. The whole school, as well as the parents, are taught to fear alcohol and "drugs" and that is THE MAIN REASON people go behind their parents back. If younger people were taught to responsibly drink, etc., I can guarantee that things wouldn't be as out of control as you claim they are. I firmly believe that the way Wayzata is going about things is tyrannical. Attending WHS used to make you an 'elite' student, but it's becoming more of a prison every year. When you think about a student taking ADD medicine, please remember that they are doing it to PASS THE TESTS teachers give at Wayzata. When you criticize this generation, remember the people who raised them. Let's not forget that students in the Wayzata area are not the only people "irresponsibly drinking and smoking." Just a thought...

May 24, 2010 10:25 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

This is a very biased and misinformed article. The author of this article is basing some of these allegations on erroneous judgements and assumptions. I am a student at WHS and I know this situation better than any parent or journalist would. My two cents is that teens will party regardless of anything. Its a part of the culture and a part of growing up. High schools will always have students who use substances, some for good purposes when used maturely, others not. The bottom line is, its a social activity, and it appeals to teens. There are many people who can handel the partying at a responsible level and those who can't.

May 25, 2010 11:32 am
 Posted by  wayzata

I am glad this article has been written. Wayzata has this stereotype that it is a perfect school when it really is not. I attend the high school and believe me, it is nothing close to perfect. The drug and alcohol use is very high, just like almost every other school. I believe most of the statistics in this article are way higher than it was written. Look at just a few sports teams for example, if you were to simply drug test the hockey team, I would not be surprised if the marijuana rate wasn't higher than 75%. It doesn't stop with that though, the administration has created new school laws that are ridiculous, fights between students happen all the time (verbal and physical), and friendships are practically non existent at Wayazata. Everything is determined by your reputation and your parents social status. These are just the beginning of Wayzata's problems. I believe this article is very accurate.

May 25, 2010 12:12 pm
 Posted by  littlelily

Is this article supposed to be shocking? I went to high school in a small northern MN town 15 years ago. Nearly every activity in this article was taking place back then. Drugs were easy to get. All you had to do was ask, and someone knew how to get what you wanted. Meth and ADD meds weren't popular yet, but LSD, 'shrooms, cocaine, pot, prescription pain meds... You name it, you could get it. The ol' booze in the water bottle trick was an every day occurrence. There were 7 pregnancies (that I knew about) in my graduating class of less than 200 students. What's going on now, is the same thing that was going on then. This article is just trying to make people paranoid. Be a good parent. Stay connected with your kids. Listen to them. Trust them. They'll be fine.

May 25, 2010 10:32 pm
 Posted by  420

This article is a joke.

May 26, 2010 08:06 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I don't know how the author found this information, however, this article is biased and inaccurate.

To assume 3,500+ students are avid drug users and alcoholics because one mother found that her son had a drug problem is offensive.

I know that I speak for both myself and the other clean WHS students when I say I am a little bit pissed off that Minnesota Montly and John Rosengren would publish an article that implied this. We attend one of the best high schools in the state, if not the country, and readers should be smarter than to assume we became the best by getting stoned in math.

May 26, 2010 09:51 pm
 Posted by  benthebug

I am a student at Wayzata, and i would agree that drugs are a problem. I am only a Sophomore and i can tell you, there is a big problem at school. I know a lot of other students, and about maybe half of them i know have tried or are still using drugs and alcohol. I remember spending my first year at high school listening to other students talking about how to get some weed, how they hide drugs, how they got so 'hammered' the night before, or dumb they think their parents are for catching them with weed. This is CRAZY! Alot of students above have commented on this before me. I think if you are opposing this article, and saying that Wayzata is clean and we shouldn't have too worry. You're completely wrong! You're right when you say our school isn't perfect and alot of other schools we should be worrying about... I really hope we get our heads out of the clouds and really look at whats happening! I've had a couple of friends that have been suspended and removed from the school due to drug abuse, dealing, and violence! It makes me sick to read that people have even fallen to the level where they think a pill or a drink of alcohol, or a puff of weed will make a world of difference. I believe it would, but not in the way most students are hoping for. The Statistics are wrong, and this really needs attention. Nation Wide! not just Wayzata.

May 26, 2010 10:37 pm
 Posted by  rehabs 4 quitters

Ben the bug you couldn't be more wrong. You're circle of friends obviously has develped their own "opinion" or bias against pot because you don't fully understand how much control people actually have over their "addictions". Ill tell you right now, if it was just decriminalized kids wouldn't have to hide it from their parents! Why do you think they hide it and sneak? Because they don't wanna be hounded by their parents. I'm someone whose actually socially active so I would know how the problems are affecting wayzata. The administration just needs to realize thay they can't do anything to stop students from smoking. Rehab? Good luck. Kids are just gonna want to smoke more than ever if they are oppressed in a "treatment" center. So before you form this opinion of yours, you should really do some thinking on your own, instead of basing your views on your parents. Its sad. -AM

May 26, 2010 10:38 pm
 Posted by  UTAlum

This article is extremely misinforming and bias. The goal of this article seems to be to convince the reader that Wayzata High School is just a school of drugs. This was very low of the writer to take a shot at a high caliber school such as Wayzata. The school has one of the most difficult curriculums in the state, which in turn makes many students very successful later on in life. But the only focus of the writer is to bring down the schools reputation based on a few students poor life choices.

May 26, 2010 10:51 pm
 Posted by  rehabs 4 quitters

Wayzata is a joke, and the administration needs different methods of handling this so called drug problem.

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