Poway Teen’s Death a Wake-Up Call for Students

PHS Students have learned several lessons the hard way, counselor says

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    Students set up a memorial with Luke's name and lacrosse number on Monday.

    An unusual number of tragedies at Poway High School has sparked concern among local parents in the wake of student Luke Lipscomb’s death on Monday.

    Lipscomb was 17 when he died 10 days after a shooting on Midland Rd. He and a few friends allegedly smoked marijuana that may have been laced with hallucinogenic drugs, according to Poway sheriff’s deputies.

    “This is beyond tragic,” Kathleen Sciuto, Parent Teacher Association community relations coordinator. “I think the kids have just come to assume that each year there will be a death at Poway High. The question is no longer ‘if,’ but ‘who.’”

    Lipscomb's death is the fifth in the past two years at the high school. In 2009, Clayton Blackburn died in his sleep and Veronica Aguirre died in a car accident. In 2010, Chelsea King was raped and murdered by John Albert Gardner III. Later that year, senior Tyler Peterson collapsed and died in his home.

    “Every student here knows at least one of their peers who has passed away,” said Peer Counseling Coordinator Traci Barker-Ball. “It’s so hard for them.”

    She said no young person should have to go through these experiences, but the students are stronger because of the experiences.

    When asked if the experiences could result in a wake-up call for the students, Barker-Ball said she hopes so.

    The students have had to learn many lessons in ways most teenagers don’t have to, she added.

    Sciuto's daughter knew Lipscomb, and said he wasn't a frequent drug user.

    "My daughter just can't seem to understand how this happened to Luke," Sciuto said.

    Barker-Ball said that no additional drug-safety measures will be taken that haven’t already been scheduled. In the fall, former PHS student and paraplegic Aaron Rubin spoke through his mother with the students about the ill-effects of drug use. Rubin became paralyzed after an overdose on Oxycontin.

    In the spring, another assembly will be held to educate the students on the dangers of drug-use.

    However Sciuto says that isn’t enough, and educators and parents must do more to enforce curfews, ask more questions and generally teach their kids more about the effects of drugs and alcohol.

    “These kids need to be scared straight,” she said. “They need to realize the effects that using alcohol and drugs at this young age can have on them long term -- that is, if it doesn't kill them instantly.”