Pubdate: Mon, 07 Oct 2002
Source: Times Daily (Florence, AL)
Copyright: 2002 Times Daily
Author: Lisa Singleton-Rickman


Wilson School kindergartner Dillon Frederick knows exactly what to do if he 
finds a gun.

"You leave it alone," he said. "I mean, don't dare touch it. Tell an adult 
about it."

That's the very response his school resource officer, Lauderdale County 
sheriff's deputy Steve Adkison, would expect.

Adkison and Deputy Jonathan Richey serve the county's 11 schools.

Among their many duties is providing Drug Abuse Resistance Education in the 
lower grade levels.

The national drug prevention program is generally aimed at fifth-graders, 
but starting in the lower grades is better, the officers said.

Both officers were at Wilson school Thursday for the D.A.R.E. program 
kickoff that will be implemented this year throughout the school system.

The officers showed students all the gadgets on their patrol cars and 
explained the reason for the equipment that makes up their uniforms.

A highlight of the morning was the students' visit with Velvet, the 
county's new drug-sniffing dog.

The 4-month-old black Labrador, acting on Adkison's command, retrieved a 
tennis ball, occasionally catching it in his mouth.

The whoops from the children indicated they were enjoying the demonstration.

Adkison said the D.A.R.E. program for lower grades is valuable for younger 
children because it helps lay a foundation on which future anti-drug 
programs can build.

But the officers say they must take a different approach with the 5-, 6- 
and 7-year-olds.

It's not so much about hitting the kids hard with an anti-drug message; 
it's about the lessons to be learned in building up to that point, they said.

With 20-by-24 lesson cards, the program takes aim at the areas students can 

"We talk about things that are safe to touch, smell and eat and about 
safety in general," Adkison said. "We stress how important it is to be 
cautious around strangers, and we hit on just about every area of their 
personal safety."

In their role as a SRO, officers get to know students personally. That good 
rapport goes a long way toward helping officers respond, sometimes in 
touchy situations.

But there's a downside: Only two officers are covering all the school, and 
they are expected to teach, counsel and enforce the law when necessary.

"This is a good program and one that's needed, but our goal is for the 
Lauderdale County Commission and school board to get together and hire more 
SROs," Richey said.

Many teachers agree.

Susan Fulks, a 26-year veteran teacher at Wilson, says she is reminded 
daily not to underestimate what young children know.

"It's important to start with these kinds of programs at this age because 
children need to understand, even if it's on the most basic level, that 
their actions have consequences."

One of her students, Payton Watkins, said he enjoyed learning more about 
the special uniform Richey was wearing.

In black fatigues from head to toe, Richey, who is also a tactical team 
member, spoke to the class about his clothing.

"Seeing all the stuff he was wearing was neat," Watkins said. "I love it 
when they're at our school."
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