The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 14, 2013

Panel looks at school’s bad rep: GJSD’s problem is violence, not drugs, officials say

Dave Sutor

JOHNSTOWN — Michael Dadey and Mike Artim, both members of Johnstown’s Drug and Crime Commission, understand Greater Johnstown School District’s perception problem.

And neither of them believes it reflects reality.

Being an inner-city district by rural Cambria County standards, Greater Johnstown sometimes gets a bad reputation for having rampant drug and alcohol use among its students. Dadey and Artim, though, cited a 2011 Pennsylvania Youth Survey that showed Johnstown students consume alcohol and hard drugs less than average, while recreational drug use is on par with other areas when compared with the rest of Cambria County, although districts are not permitted to release specific statistics for their schools.

Greater Johnstown students, however, were twice as likely to become physically violent with the intention to hurt others.

So, according to Dadey and Artim, the district’s problem is not drugs, it’s violence.

That is the kind of information they want to make the commission aware of while serving on the organization’s education subcommittee, along with former Johnstown economic development director Jim White.

“We’re really trying to separate the fact from fiction,” said Artim, Cambria-Rowe Business College’s executive director and chairman of the subcommittee, during a commission meeting Thursday.

“There are a lot of preconceived notions to what the issues are, and they don’t match up to what the realities are.”

Dadey, Greater Johnstown High School’s assistant principal, feels the tendency toward violent behavior is a result of problems within the community and some homes.

“The students feel safe, they feel secure, they have people who care for them in the schools,” said Dadey. “The problem is really within the community. They feel the community’s dysfunctional. They feel the community’s disorganized. Some of the things that they’re being taught in the community, as well as the homes, is antisocial behavior.”

Dadey, White and Artim will continue to gather information about crime within the school district during the next few weeks. It eventually will be included in the commission’s final report, which is due this summer.

The commission, consisting of 12 members, including its chairman, state Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, was assembled in January. It was assigned the duty of studying criminal activity in Johnstown and presenting recommendations to City Council about how to address the issue.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.