0420PARENTSAUDbAudrey Smith, a South Hall parent, talks about how teenagers know where to find drugs in school to helpl them "self-medicate."
And among the most worrisome distractions for parents are drugs and alcohol.
Gainesville resident Dixie Lee Wojeck said the lesson to her children was "you make your choices and in making choices, you are also choosing consequences."
"And what you do affects everybody around you, and it affects you forever."
She said she believes that rule applies to all decisions people make but especially drug use.
"You have the destruction of the person taking the drugs and you have the destruction of the family unit," said Wojeck, who has two grown children and a 17-year-old high school junior.
"And you have the destruction of your dreams and your hopes."
For many parents, one of the stiffest challenges is getting their teens to open up to them, to talk about their lives apart from home.
Wojeck has seen that in her own kids.
"It's like I don't know anything and I'm just an old woman," she said, with a laugh.
"But there are times they surprise me. They will come and say something and usually it's at night when I'm already in bed. That's when they want to come and open up."
Audrey Smith of South Hall has never strayed far from her children's shadow as they have come up in school.
"I was the parent who did all the coffees for the teachers, did every party, headed up the fall festival and the fundraisers," she said. "I was that parent who had nothing else to do but be at school with their children."
Smith said she realizes other parents don't have the same luxury.
"They have to work ... and those children are at risk," she said.
Smith went through training in the Georgia Advocacy Office's Parent Leadership Support Project to become an educational advocate.
Through her work, she has seen a darker side to today's schools.
For one thing, drug use among teenagers isn't something that just happens. There are signs to watch for.
"You have to understand the whole thing," she said.
Smith said it might start with a student who has a learning disability and they already know "they're a little bit different." It's something that's been reinforced through certain activities at school.
Their response to humiliation may turn first to misbehavior.
As pressures increase, particularly in high school, they "start to self-medicate, especially if they don't have a parent that doesn't understand them," Smith said.
"They start with drinking, then it moves to marijuana," she said.
"Is it sad? Is it excusable? I don't know the answers to those questions. I just know that it happens and it happens to kids who started off being good kids."
And students know where to turn to for the substances that help "calm them down so they can feel OK in that classroom," Smith said.
"They know who to go to if you want anything ... for whatever you need. It's common knowledge among the students."
A grandparent whose name is being withheld to protect her identity said students don't have to travel beyond her neighborhood to find drugs.
"You can just be sitting on the porch and see drug sales going on," she said.
She believes the solution for troubled young lives lies at home.
"If you discipline your child early, you won't have a problem," she said, adding that she believes spankings at school, when they were allowed there, also helped in raising children.
Today's youth "just do what they want to do," she said. "They don't listen and then they go to this person that says, ‘Hey, I know how you can make some money.' And then, it's out of proportion."