Pubdate: Wed, 18 Feb 2004
Source: Florida Today (Melbourne, FL)
Copyright: 2004 Florida Today
Note: Does not accept out of town LTEs on drug policy
Author: Linda Jump


Results Show Earlier Intervention Needed With Kids

One in 20 fourth-graders has sniffed glue.

A third to half of ninth-graders drink and smoke pot.

The information from the latest Indian River County student survey should 
be enough to scare a parent.

"It's scary. We need to reach kids at first-grade, maybe kindergarten," 
said Nadia Schulke of Sebastian, parent of a first-grader at Liberty Magnet 
Elementary School and a preschooler.

The results of the survey -- taken by 1,614 students from fourth- through 
12th-grades -- were outlined Tuesday at a Substance Abuse Council-sponsored 
program. Officials attending the program said the results show earlier 
intervention is needed.

Robert Peterson, international director of PRIDE Youth Programs 
International Division, gave an overview of the county's youth survey 
results. Among the results, more than twice as many fourth-graders as 
fifth-graders responded they were using inhalants like glue.

Schulke said it's too late to teach students in fifth-grade the dangers of 
drugs. Children are exposed to drugs at a much earlier age, she said, so 
she's talked to her children at any opportunity about how smoking makes 
teeth yellow and gives them bad breath.

The survey also showed less use among 10th-, 11th-, and 12th-grade students 
than in recent years. Andrew Shepherd, a sophomore in the international 
baccalaureate program at Sebastian River High School, was surprised a small 
percentage of his peers said they've used cocaine.

"I didn't know anyone used it," he said.

He said he also was surprised more than half drink beer, but not surprised 
that a quarter smoke cigarettes. Personally, he said, he's too busy to be 

On the plus side, the survey, conducted in Indian River County since 1990, 
showed a reduction in drug use among 10th-to 12th-graders compared with 
recent years.

Colette Heid, executive director of the council, said that's likely due to 
the middle school life skills program those students finished. And she said 
fifth-graders go through the Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education program, 
where they learn about the dangers of abuse, which could explain their 

Heid said the spike in drug abuse among last year's 9th-grade class began 
in 1999 when those students were in fifth grade. "It continued again in 7th 
grade and now in 9th grade," Heid said. She and others at the conference 
couldn't explain the hike.

A 1998 federal law established the PRIDE survey as a measure of the 
effectiveness of White House drug control policy. The 2003 study of 450,000 
students nationally found that illegal drug use and cigarette smoking among 
6th to 12th graders increased slightly, while alcohol use remained about 
the same, with half the students saying they used alcohol in the past year.

Sgt. Brad Fojtik of the Indian River County Sheriff's Office said the data 
helps his department and school resource officers target the age groups 
experiencing spikes. "We've followed the survey from its inception," he said.

Melinda Gielow, director of health and student services for the Indian 
River County School District, said the district might need to look into 
telling students about the dangers of illegal drugs in younger grades.

Veronica Steward, who is renewing her license as a social worker here after 
moving from New York City, said it was interesting to note that even in 
rural Indian River, drugs are used by children and teens.

"I was a little naive," she said.

"I hate to think that sixth graders are doing those things," said Deborah 
Bova, who has a sixth grade son at Sebastian River Middle School.She said 
parental supervision is vital. "If a child is left their own device, 
especially with older siblings, it's bad."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman