Seattle Parents Protest Drug Recovery High School Near Elementary School

By McCarton Ackerman 11/24/14

Some recovery high schools across the country have met with criticism from the very communities they serve.

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A Seattle drug recovery school that helps teenagers earn their high school diploma has been met with opposition from parents because it’s located next to a traditional elementary school.

An online petition against the recovery school, known as Interagency Academy, has garnered hundreds of signatures. Some parents didn’t seem to understand that the students are committed to staying clean and sober, expressing fear of a very public relapse near young children or drug dealers setting up shop nearby. Other parents at John Hay Elementary, located across the street from Interagency, were upset about not being notified beforehand.

"We basically had to find out about it through a blog. Recovery and elementary should not be in the same geographic region,” said Christina Economou, a parent whose child attends John Hay Elementary.

But other parents have expressed support for Interagency, with John Hay Elementary parent Lisa Reibin-Evans declaring that “if there's any school in the district at a high school level that's going to be clean and sober, it's going to be a program like Interagency's." The staff at John Hay Elementary also released a position letter to "send a clear message to these youth that they are welcome, accepted and wanted."

Recovery centers and rehabs located near schools have long been a source of controversy across the country. Last month, residents of Englewood, Ill., protested a group of ex-drug offenders moving into a rehab facility located near an elementary school. Parents at a local school council meeting claim that Southwood Interventions never notified them of the plan.

"All of this came to my attention by someone else and not Southwood Interventions and I have a problem with that," said Ald. Toni Foulkes. "There was no community meeting to let residents know anything and that was not right. I am not against drug treatment centers, but what sense does it make to bring people, who are trying to get off drugs, into a community with a drug problem?"

The center tried to ease parent concerns by assuring them that the offenders would wear ankle monitors at all times, but eventually scrapped plans to move them there.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.