Pushing for Change

Cartoon by Stefanie Diers.

Of the many serious social and economic issues that plague our society, some are avoidable, some manageable and some inevitable.

This week’s issue of The Oracle saw two instances of lawmakers attempting to combat some of these problems through means of legislation. Ulster County Executive Mike Hein proposed a law that would make cyberbullying of a minor a legal offense, and State Senators called for the enactment of Laree’s Law, which would allow prosecutors to charge dealers with homicide if they sell heroin that caused a lethal overdose.

We at The New Paltz Oracle commend all on their efforts to remediate these very real problems in our community. However, we believe there is more that can be done and other measures that can and should be taken toward prevention.

Both cyberbullying and heroin abuse can often be prevented at a young age if proper education and support are provided. Children are a blank slate and we should be more concerned with the initial print than the quality of our eraser. Instead of reprimanding offenders after they have already acted, we should focus more to the root of the problem and move toward preventative efforts.

The days are long gone where a problem with a bully could be “handled” with a playground tussle. The introduction of social media to school-aged children has made it so bullies can be as cruel as they wish, with limited pushback. Much of the conflict resides in a digital world, outside of social constructs that prevented bullying in the past.

This shows how much bullying nowadays is not seen and often left unaddressed. In light of this, adults involved in educating, counseling, mentoring, supervising or leading children are the first line of defense. They should be constantly on the lookout for secrecy, seclusion and lack of involvement or interest among children who have access to social media. Aside from reacting to already-occurring instances of bullying, we believe that when children come of age to start using social media, this conversation is needed.

While cyberbullying is a serious issue still coming of age, one that has been prevalent for quite longer has yet to be properly addressed. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, just over 11,000 Americans died from heroin overdoses in 2014. That is roughly 3,000 more people than the number of students enrolled here at SUNY New Paltz and the same number of people killed by guns in the U.S. in 2013 (not including suicides).

While dealers whose heroin causes an overdose deserve to be punished, this will not bring back the victim, and it will not get heroin off the streets. The problem is deeper, and unfortunately, there isn’t only one.

Perhaps it starts with doctors over-prescribing prescription painkillers causing patients to become addicted and turn to heroin when their pills run out. Or maybe it is because kids have such easy access to gateway drugs such as marijuana or alcohol. Either way, people of all ages, social classes, races, genders and backgrounds are exposed to this evil, and more and more are being consumed by it.

Education and awareness is the only foreseeable option. Teaching children about the presence and dangers of heroin at an early age along with rigorous support and counseling for addicts and recovering addicts are necessary steps toward prevention. No matter how many laws we pass and how many dealers we arrest, heroin will still get to the hands of all of those who want it. We can’t make it so there are no dealers, but we can, as a community, make it so there are no customers.

Editorials represent the views of the majority of the editorial board. Columns, op-eds and letters, excluding editorials, are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.