Who's Right: Wilton High School as Drug Den or Everywhere America?

In the wake of Aaron Ramsey's arrest on charges that he killed his father, the focus in Wilton shifts to drug use among town teens.


A graduate faces a , followed by .

Some say this is a symptom of a larger issue in the where parents and administrators turn a blind eye to kids in the throes of addiction.

School officials acknowledge the problem and say they are doing everything they can to reduce and eliminate illicit substances and substance abuse.

Who is right?

According to Wilton High School Principal Robert O’Donnell, drug use “comes in trends.”

“I think there’s drug use here,” he said. “There’s drug use in every high school, but we want to minimize it and eradicate it as much as possible.”

The comments come as the town faces questions about whether and to what extent drug use from contributed to the.

Friends and acquaintances have described Ramsey as a heavy drug user since his first years at Wilton High School, though he never .

According to former Wilton High School students, including drug addicts now in recovery, problems of substance abuse at the Danbury Road facility are more common than are widely acknowledged.

Asked whether she had seen cocaine or crack in Wilton, 2010 graduate Maddie Budge said “cocaine, yes; crack, not so much.”

“I was drinking and smoking pot as a freshman,” Budge said. “I was bored.”

Data from a 2011 survey administered by PositiveDirections.org and the Wilton Task Force to Reduce Underage Drinking found that 7 percent of those polled in grades 11-12 had experimented with pain medications, 3 percent with hallucinogens and 3 percent with tranquilizers. A survey from 2007 from the same two agencies found a spike in drug use among seniors who took prescription medications—such as oxycotin and Ritalin—at 9.4 percent.

The Ramsey case is not isolated as far as speculation on drug use goes.

In February, Pawel Sywak, a Wilton High School graduate, died at the University of Connecticut at age 19 in an incident which appeared . His then-girlfriend, also a Wilton resident, faces numerous charges including possession of heroin and reckless endangerment, according to police reports.

According to Colleen Fawcett, coordinator of Wilton Youth Service, an agency which serves town youth and families, illicit drug use is “very low” among Wilton youth.

“However, any single case of youth using any of these illicit drugs is cause for great concern,” Fawcett said in an email.

Michael Avedis, who had been kicked out of Wilton High School as a sophomore in 2005 because of drugs and was arrested in  within 500 feet of the school, said he started smoking crack at age 16.

“I screwed around with heroin and pretty much everything else,” Avedis said.

Avedis added that part of what enables Wilton teens to experiment with drugs is money from their parents.

One former Wilton High School student who is under the age of 18 and spoke to Patch on condition of anonymity, said a stint in rehab ultimately resulted from using drugs bought with allowance money.

Lee Boffey, who has a son in , said that wealth provides access to drugs.

“The problem with these towns is that there’s too much money,” Boffey said. “You can’t buy drugs if you don’t have money. If my son comes to me at ten years old asking [for money], I want to know what it’s for and get a receipt.”

Lee Aydelotte May 11, 2012 at 12:20 PM
good article Craig! But my son is 10 not 6 :) Thankfully we have a few years before we need to worry about any drug use. But I sure want him to understand it now, and the consequences it brings. This is a horrible lesson to have to learn, but neccessary.
thg May 11, 2012 at 12:51 PM
The kids in the High School all say that there is a very large drug problem at the School. The administration says it is not a big deal. The parents say my kid is clean. Who are you going to believe? Every kid I have talked to says there is a large problem. Why motivation would the kids have to lie?
Elyse May 11, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Drug use indeed does come in trends, but the actual abuse has always been there. When I attended Wilton High back in the 70s, some kids did LSD. Alcohol abuse has always existed because alcohol has always been very easy for kids to obtain – they just raid their parent’s stash. And Lee, your son may be 10, but that’s when certain drug behaviors begin. You may wish to check out http://clc.asu.edu/files/courses/Teen-Drug-Use.pdf (all parents should!) which explains a lot about what drugs kids take, the symptoms as well when parents should start talking to their kids about drugs – 5 years old, because inhalants are where many kids begin their drug abuse. And you can, so I’m told, just start with a can of whipped cream and inhale the propellant in that. And here are some more links of interest: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/druguse.htm http://www.teendrugabuse.us/teen_drug_use.html http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics Many parents will think ‘my kid will never do that’ because they told their kids not to, but there is a lot of peer pressure. Kids might think, what’s the harm in trying it ONCE? It doesn’t help that yes, affluent communities mean you can afford drugs more easily, but in reality if you want drugs, you can be dirt poor and still get them. You just resort to crime.
Ronni McLaughlin May 11, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Kids often think that a drug dealer is a dark sinister guy lurking around. They need to be told at a young age not to take anything from their friends and it could be their best friend offering them their first joint. One of my sons told me on his first day of high school he learned who sold which drugs. Children should learn young just as we tell them about strangers. Also if patents have pain meds go to Walmart and get a cash box that locks and lock them up!!!
thg May 11, 2012 at 04:38 PM
If on the first day of school you can find out where to buy drugs, how can it be possible that the administration claims there is not a drug problem?
Tolerance Rocks May 11, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Bring in drug-sniffing dogs.
the man May 11, 2012 at 06:54 PM
This is one problem where I do not care what the towns around us are doing nor how we compare. We must take aggressive action to find the providers and put them out of business and that includes those within Wilton. NO LOOKING THE OTHER WAY-- Parents and educators and churches need to be aggressive in stamping out the problem. I would rather spend 1,600,000 on this issue than optical fiber networks.
NewCanaanVoter May 11, 2012 at 07:34 PM
A better site to go for information is Erowid.org. That way you are actually getting detailed information summarized from the academic literature rather than just a two sentence summary. E.g. the first link you provided groups nitrous oxide in with other inhalants, which makes little sense because most inhalants can cause brain damage but nitrous oxide doesn't. (Unless you don't breathe, or if you do an excessive amount in which case you can get neuropathic damage caused by vitamin b depletion.) There's no way you can make rational decisions about drug use unless you're actually familiar with the latest scientific research, as well as the opinions of those researchers and the reports from people who have actually used the given drugs.
KMP May 11, 2012 at 07:36 PM
@The man - well put. The most important investment we make is in our children, and all the fancy smart boards and fiber optic technology won't mean a thing if they are not brought up in a safe environment which puts their health and security first. Can we access what the school's policy is on drugs? Is it truly "zero tolerance?" We also need to commit as a community to not allow our homes to be used as havens for underage drinking and drug use. This is one area that we desperately need to focus on and rip the roof off the clandestine behavior.
NewCanaanVoter May 11, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Also, as an example of why Erowid is useful, here is a talk the founders gave ~3 years ago about recent developments in research chemicals: http://www.maps.org/videos/source4/video2.html
Change the school's reputation May 11, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Why can't they have unannounced lock-downs and bring in drug dogs? Any locker found with drugs in it should result in an immediate arrest, even if they have to use buses to transport all the kids to the station. Rather than having a reputation where drugs are readily available, Wilton High School needs to get a state-wide reputation as a school where you are screwed if you bring drugs onto campus.
KMP May 11, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Quick update: as I sit here waiting for my kindergartener's bus to drop her off, I'm listening to a talking on his cell to a friend (Im in the demographic that's invisible to them so he obviously doesn't care that I'm sitting right here). Direct quote, "are you partying today? Dude, I was high as *expletive* when I saw you at school today." you cannot make this stuff up. This neighborhood kid is around 15. Just another argument that this is literally in our own backyards.
Lee Aydelotte May 11, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Hi Michele!! I agree with "the man" and "change the school reputation".....but I wonder, is the school administrators even listening to any of this!? Yes, we as parents have a duty to better serve our kids then some currently do. BUT, we can't follow them around at school everyday. We rely on our schools to protect our children. Seems Wilton doesn't seem to care about this. So, what are we going to do about it? We can bitch and moan on the Patch and with each other, but let's take action! Hard for me, as I am an hour away (my son is stil there with his Dad, but I myself left Wilton, as it wasn't serving me AT ALL! and I do wish that my son will also soon be removed from Wilton). HOWEVER, he is still there, lot's of my dear friends, and their children are still there...and I care passionately about these folks. So what can we do? start a petition? bring in more media to report on this issue. Seriously, I lrespect all these thoughts, ideas, suggestions, but we NEED to act ASAP!! to start, what can I do?
Amo Probus May 12, 2012 at 10:49 AM
School administrators are saying it's ok to break the law, live a feckless life and risk injury to your classmates each and every time they turn their daily blind eye to a drug or related problem. Zero tolerance for being a bully but zero sense for being a real risk to the community. I guess admin and teachers think it's "uncool" to be anti drug (or pro student?)
FreedomOfSpeech May 13, 2012 at 03:40 AM
First of all, Wilton is NOT a wealthy town. Greenwich, New Canaan, Westport are wealthy towns and you don't hear about kids in those towns using heroin. Drinking - Yes. Smoking pot - Yes. But cocaine and heroin? C'mon. If Wilton is a wealthy town, will somebody PLEASE knock down that old, moldy high school and upgrade? Money has nothing to do with it. If these parents will connect with their children and give a damn instead of turning their cheek or being in denial than maybe just maybe drugs wouldn't be such an issue. Talk to your kids. Let them know they can talk to you.
the man May 13, 2012 at 06:34 PM
You cannot expect the schools to do it all. Parents must be alert to the first signs and not look the other way or condone out of line behavior and make it clear to the child that actions have consequences and they must be willing to face the problems head on within their own home. Remember the schools do not make drugs available. The drugs come from the home or are purchased with money from the home.
Patrick Henry May 14, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Heroin is actually a really big problem in New Canaan. http://newcanaan.patch.com/articles/iphone-theft-leads-to-felony-drug-arrest-for-nchs-senior http://newcanaan.patch.com/articles/19-year-old-new-canaan-woman-faces-felony-narcotics-charges http://www.thedailynewcanaan.com/news/man-charged-having-gun-new-canaan-hospital
ahp May 14, 2012 at 01:53 PM
A) at such young ages a persons brain is not even fully developed B)addicts as a rule are highly intelligent overly sensitive people. Drug use retards the full development of the brain and changes brain chemistry over a period a relatively short time.Money buys drugs but it also buys treatment. Convicted Criminal John Rowland cut nearly all state funding for addiction services making what is often thought of as a socioeconomic problem of the poor even more difficult for the less fortunate to get help. Addiction is a disease that can make average middle class parents abandon their kids and live as homeless and worse. The uneducated think the addict has a choice. There is no choice once you are in the grip of what seems like the best feeling in the world, even as you lose everything. FAMILIES try to keep your loved ones alive until they are ready to change- all the drug dogs in the world cannot make that happen- if it takes 30 rehabs or jail at least they may LIVE
Parkhere May 15, 2012 at 08:07 PM
drugs were rampant at WHS when I was there 2 years ago. I used to bail on my AP classes to go smoke weed, oh those were the days
the man May 17, 2012 at 03:52 AM
I listen to parents carry on about how cutting one dollar of school funding will destroy home prices, well if Wilton becomes known as a drug permissive school and parents and the schools look the other way to avoid a law suit or embarrassing a family who condone or supply then watch the home prices go down faster than the Hindenburg.. This is too big and important a problem to be swept under the rug. Two people have died and we do not know how many more are about to ruin their future.
I_Read_News May 20, 2012 at 04:58 AM
With all due respect, your remarks about Wilton's wealth are somewhat misinformed and distorted (on a collective and sociological basis). In 2007, CNNMoney ranked Wilton #16 on its list of the 25 wealthiest towns in this entire, massive country**. In fact, just last year Patch reported that Wilton is the 4th richest municipality out of the 23 towns/cities that comprise Fairfield County (see: http://wilton.patch.com/articles/wilton-fourth-richest-town-in-fairfield-county). The context of drug use in Wilton is easier to understand when one considers it apart from the individual concepts that one has constructed out of personal (and personal financial) experiences in Fairfield County as a whole. The median household income in Wilton may not be the absolute highest within the microcosm of this area, but within the macrocosm of this entire country and world, it's gargantuan. If the proverbial "99%" were to represent the majority of the world as a whole, then Wilton would without question be part of the "1%" (which, whether you see it or not, means Wilton society is comparatively very privileged). I also must respectfully disagree with your opinion re:the structural integrity of WHS, considering the multi-million dollar renovation/expansion done in 2001 and $16.6 million done on the HVAC system in 2009. ** http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/moneymag/0707/gallery.BPTL_highest_income.moneymag/16.html & http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2007/top25s/highincomes.html
I_Read_News May 20, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Wilton High School has had a subculture of hard drug use for more years than most people seem (or care) to realize. As WHS graduate from early 00s, I could easily name at least 5 or 6 classmates off the top of my head (from classes before & after mine, and my own) who are now dead as a direct result of drug use. Most of those deaths were heroin-related, but a few were due to cocaine. Imagine my disgust when, a few years after I graduated, I learned from a then-freshman at WHS that hard drug use (think: psychedelics) was also occurring among Middlebrook students (on an albiet smaller scale than WHS, but nonetheless troubling). I can firmly attest to the fact that oversized allowances, lack of supervision, and that youthful sense of invincibility are the major reasons for Wilton's drug problem.
Captain Renault May 25, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! (to the croupier) - Have my winnings brought to my table ...
Captain Renault May 25, 2012 at 02:22 PM
You must be very proud of that now ...
whs June 05, 2012 at 04:53 AM
if you thing aaron, pawel or maddie are an accurate representation of whs students, you clearly dont have any idea who they are. i was on the football team with aaron, and had classes with maddie and pawel. no one that knows them is surprised that they have drug issues cause they were the weird kids that only hung out with other weird kids since they didnt fit in with typical whs kids. they thought doing hard drugs and acting like that was edgey and "rebelling" against the wilton stereotype. do you really think a person would let the local newspaper use their name when admitting to doing coke and crack if they were a part of the normal wilton community? really, theyre as far from the average whs student as you can get because they went out of their way to act different.
Connecticut15 July 02, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Let's not isolate a few students. There are many who do not have the courage to speak up or choose not to to protect their drugging and drinking. There are kids who are experimenting and using whose parents sit on boards attempting to address this very problem. Shouldn't we also include the underage drinking in this conversation? Did any of these situations that ended so horribly begin with simple or easy or early drinking or marijuana use years ago? When beer pong parties are more the norm for entertainment after hours then to what next stage will some of these students experiment? Wilton may not be different from our peer communities, but the problems still exist. How about the adults? I've been in a pick-up line at one of our elementary schools and a mom picking up her child after school was engulfed in a very pungent aroma. While these are sicknesses, we should and could do better. How many of our neighboring communities have had these types of crimes associated with illegal drugs wherein a person dies? How many students/kids do we lose along the way while we look the other way? Are there any common denominators? Is it solely a family situation? We send our children out of our homes for most of the day - so, some combination of home and outside the home creates the fertile ground. We might do well to take a hard look for potential commonalities among these cases.


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