There's always a school that parents shun because it has a perceived drug problem. A couple of students might have been busted with pot in their school bags. Or the school might have made headlines after girls were caught with illicit drugs at their camp. But the chatter persists for decades and is often at the forefront of parents' minds when they weigh up where to send their children. A school's reputation can crumble quickly and, sadly, the effects reverberate for years. As competition for enrolments intensifies, protecting their reputation has become more important. This is why principals are reluctant to talk openly about drugs like ice. They don't want to be branded as the "druggy school", and certainly not as the "ice school". They're also concerned that speaking out will tarnish the entire student cohort. The media's interest in these stories is definitely not desirable. Some principals are so afraid of word getting out that they don't tell their colleagues when a student is experiencing drug issues. But this cone of silence can be damaging and it harms those who need help the most. It creates an unsupportive environment where students and parents don't feel comfortable talking about drug issues affecting them. It creates a stigma. Parents don't want to jeopardise the stability and routine that schools provide students in difficult times. They worry the student will be expelled to protect the school's reputation, instead of being supported in a warm, accepting environment. Schools need more resources to help them deal with tough issues like ice. And they are rightly concerned about the safety of all students and staff. But they also have a responsibility to every student as an individual. One parent who spoke to Fairfax Media about her son's battle with ice, said schools struggled to balance these competing obligations. "There's an inherent conflict and that means the welfare of the student is too often subjugated and that is wrong," she said. If remaining silent reinforces the stigma, then it's time to talk openly and honestly.