Discovery Bay teens – Discovery College principal’s view
The recent piece on Discovery Bay teenagers and the issue of underage drinking and drug taking by kids as young as 13 prompted considerable reader reaction, for which many thanks. This is an important topic for many people, so I will address your concerns in two parts. Today we hear from the Principal of Discovery College, Mark Beach, where many, but by no means all, DB teenagers go to school. Tomorrow it’s the turn of the drug education NGO Kely Support Group and the kids themselves.
Many of you voiced different opinions regarding the cause of under-age drinking and drug-taking in DB, ranging from lax parenting to insufficient recreation and sports facilities, to “there’s a drug problem everywhere, not just DB.” Much of it, many of you agree, centres in or around the Plaza. One reader pointed out that ironically, the Plaza is also where many of the parents of these latchkey teens can often be found, relaxing of an evening.
First of all, Beach says he feels he’s not in a position to answer my questions about teenage drinking and drug-taking with evidence, because he does not live in DB. “And so although I am aware of drug and alcohol use in DB, I cannot say whether it is a greater or lesser problem than in other areas of Hong Kong,” he says. Many people wrote parents are very relaxed because they feel DB is safe and so do not monitor their kids’ whereabouts as closely as they would elsewhere. Mr Beach agrees. “Certainly I believe that the "safe" nature of DB does mean that many of our young people enjoy greater freedoms of movement, and at a younger age, than perhaps would be possible on Hong Kong Island or Kowloon.”
More facilities not the answer
I asked him how much fault lies at the feet of DB owners Hong Kong Resorts, for not providing more facilities to teenagers. He replied that there is a lot of information about the lack of facilities, adding that he absolutely agrees that DB needs far more spaces for sports, including a full-sized pitch and a skateboard park. But he says that he does not think, however, that DB has a huge number of actively sporty students in the community. “I wonder if more facilities will actually address the issues of those other youngsters who are at risk. They are two separate issues in my mind,” he says.
I was given to believe that Beach had cancelled the educational Kely Support Group programme in Discovery College, but he says this is not the case. “We never had an agreement with Kely Support Group so did not cancel any particular programme.” Rather, the school runs a comprehensive drug and alcohol awareness programme, as part of their pastoral and wellbeing curriculum. In recent years they have also developed a Student Support approach across the college, he says. “That includes two dedicated Student Counsellors (primary and secondary) and a Social Worker, who work in close collaboration with teachers, secondary Deans and our VPs.” He added that he believes that addressing these issues through learning programmes and the provision of trained staff is the most effective way of handling the issue. “We also make use of the local police to manage discussions and presentations to not only students, but also parents.”
The discussion continues tomorrow, please feel free to email me or post a comment.