By Lori Lyn Lirio
CHEWING Betel Nut is an addiction among a number of Kagman High School students.
Thus said KHS Principal Leila Staffler after noting that the most infraction committed by her students is Betel Nut chewing.
“I have been paying attention to the numbers and looking at our discipline data, chewing Betel Nut is what students get in trouble for the most,” said Staffler, who has been the KHS principal since 2008.
She said it is very challenging for educators because they are not just dealing with the student’s behavior, but their addiction as well.
“It is very hard to balance the need to focus on instruction, when you also have to deal with the student’s deeper need when it comes to their habit or addiction.”
The KHS, according to Staffler, has been working with the Commonwealth Cancer Association and has been reaching out to Public Health to do presentations on oral cancer at schools.
“They have been coming year after year, but presentations don’t just do it. We need more than that. They need so much support to change the habits,” Staffler said in an interview.
After the presentations, she said they would do surveys to students to find out from them at what age did they start chewing Betel Nut and who or what encouraged them to try it.
“Our data showed that kids started in middle school and upper elementary age. They start back early. That’s when they started introduced to the habit,” she said.
KHS student Britney Takai, who participated in the 2018 Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons or STEP-UP program, made a research on the correlation of chewing betel nut to oral cancer on Saipan.
In her findings, Betel Nut chewing infractions mostly started in middle school.
The chart she prepared showed that between the school years 2014-15, middle school students were ahead of high school students in terms of Betel Nut chewing infractions.
In the school year 2015-16, high school dominated the chart by 74 percent; and 62 percent in the SY 2016-17.
Staffler said the school tried to reach out the tobacco cessation programs that could offer assistance and outreach to students under the age of 18. She said students below 18 were not allowed to participate in most cessation programs.
The other option that they tried to do for discipline, according to Staffler, was giving the students a research project about Betel Nut and oral cancer with 10 pictures that they could share with their peers.
“Instead of suspending them – which they don’t learn from that – we give them research project. Did it do anything? Honestly, I don’t know if it changed their behavior because they still got in trouble for chewing betel nut the following year. Maybe it made them more aware. They need more than that to quit the habit. They need a cessation program that will help them,” Staffler said.