Pubdate: Sat, 29 May 2004
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 Beacon Herald
Author: Brian Shypula
Bookmark: (Youth)


Stratford Police Program Encourages Students To Say No

City police are taking their anti-drug and alcohol message to younger students.

Traditionally presented to seventh- and eighth-graders on the cusp of 
entering high school, now sixth and even some fifth graders are learning 
about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Police lowered the threshold in 
response to the Avon Maitland District School Board's move to consolidate 
grades 7 and 8 in high schools last year.

"Kids are starting to hear about (drugs) earlier and are more curious," 
said Const. Deb Neeb of Stratford police. "We felt it's important to get 
them at that age so they have some education about what they're getting into."

The community services officer has been visiting Grade 6 classrooms 
throughout the school year talking to students about drugs and alcohol.

The education campaign wrapped up Friday with the third annual Race Against 
Drugs forum at Dufferin arena. About 800 students from Stratford's public 
and separate schools attended the racing-themed event over the last three days.

They participated in a number of fun and educational activities meant to 
reinforce the anti-drug message.

Asked what she learned, Kristen Brightwell, 11, a Grade 6 student at 
Bedford, said: "Not to do drugs, and if someone comes up to you and asks 
you to do drugs, just walk away."

A skit put on by three officers of the Kitchener RCMP detachment showed 
that walking away can be frightening, even if it's the right thing to do.

Corp. Mo Carey, playing Mojo the drug dealer in heavy makeup, long dark wig 
and black trench coat, scared students like Brenda-Lynn King, 12, a seventh 
grader at Northwestern Public School, as he acted out a drug deal gone bad.

In the skit, Cheese Whiz in plastic wrap was substituted for real drugs. 
But the chain of events was realistic from the initial deal to cutting the 
drug to stretch it further.

"All he's interested in is profit," Const. John Mitchell, the narrator, 
told the students.

Ron Plaskett, a Grade 5-6 teacher at Bedford Public School who was 
attending the forum for the first time, was impressed by the quality of 
education being given to the students.

"They're getting a lot of good advice, sound advice," he said. "They're not 
talking over their heads."

Paul Robinson, operations manager for the Perth County ambulance service, 
taught the kids about the potential dangers of prescription and 
over-the-counter medications and what to do if they find someone who has 

Local paramedics respond to about 100-150 overdose calls a month, more than 
10 per cent of the 9,000 calls they handle annually, he said.

Volunteers with Community Link Empowered Against Narcotics (CLEAN), a 
parent group formed after a serious heroin problem surfaced at 
Waterloo-Oxford Secondary School in Baden, delivered a blunt message about 
the dangers of drugs illustrated by a clever exercise.

The students tried to write the word "drugs" using only a reflection in a 
mirror, a confusing task meant to illustrate how their brains are altered 
by taking drugs.

Pat Reeve told the youngsters that her son, who should be in Grade 11, had 
to take Grade 10 math and English three times each before barely passing. 
She attributed his problems in school to marijuana, which he began smoking 
in ninth grade.

"I have no doubt in my mind that his learning is affected because he uses 
marijuana," she said.

"I think you've got to be blunt. This is a reality check," said Chief Gerry 
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