ANTI-DRUG MESSAGE SPREAD
Students, teachers and parents got a crash course in drug awareness at Glendale Middle School on Monday.
Former Calgary police officer and undercover narcotics agent Steve Walton gave a series of street-smart presentations throughout the day, including a seminar titled Street Drug Awareness: A Parental Approach to a group of 60 parents in the evening.
"The school is doing it right, making sure we're talking to the kids and the parents together," he said.
Typically, students receive lectures in drug awareness but it's not so often their parents are involved, too, according to both Walton and Glendale vice-principal Ted Hutchings, who first saw Walton speak while working at Eastview Middle School two years ago.
Bruce Buruma, director of community relations with Red Deer Public Schools, explained the presentations were part of an action plan for drug use among youth launched last September.
He said the schools realized the plan needed to include a number of different components, such as school presentations, teacher training, curriculum development, alternative approaches like the Wasted Angels theatre production, peer outreach programs like Changes and parental involvement.
"We know we need to try a variety of approaches because while the school jurisdiction has a responsibility, we also realize this is a community issue," Buruma said.
Walton said it's never too early to begin educating children about recreational drugs. He described the 12-to-17 age group as particularly vulnerable. He said the biggest group of drug users is aged 18 to 24.
"Drugs have always been around, but their potency has changed in recent times," Hutchings said. "There's no doubt the economy is a factor and it plays into the fact that kids have more money and access."
Buruma wouldn't say drug use is such a serious problem in Red Deer schools but argued "anytime kids are using alcohol or drugs, it's a concern."
And Walton said Red Deer is no different from Calgary in the types of drugs available.
Hutchings said the success of the Red Deer plan would be measured not only in statistics but in anecdotal evidence aE" "when kids say they've heard the message and made a choice."
Walton received a good reaction from Glendale's 370 students on Monday afternoon after delivering a fact-laden presentation on the look, use and impact of some of the more popular street drugs: marijuana, ecstasy, crystal meth and crack cocaine among them.
The school's 40 staff members then attended a question-and-answer session to bring their own knowledge up to speed before parents arrived for the seminar.
Walton, who runs a consultancy called Get the Dope on Dope, covered topics ranging from how to recognize addictive behaviour to drug slang to current trends. Above all, he stressed the need for families to discuss drugs.
"If the kids don't have the education, they will try it," he said.