Teaching kids not only to say no to using illegal drugs, but giving them skills to avoid drugs altogether, will be high on the priority list for local schools next week as they participate in the nationwide Red Ribbon Drug-free Campaign, Oct. 24-Nov. 1.
“Our schools will be joining millions of people across America to say no to drugs,” said Christine Peaslee, Red Ribbon Week volunteer coordinator and fifth-sixth-grade teacher at Richard Crane School.
Red Ribbon Week, which became a nationwide drug-abuse prevention campaign in 1988, originated after the murder of a federal agent Enrique Camarna by drug traffickers in 1985.
The “Red Ribbon” therefore has become a symbol to eliminate the demand for drugs in America.
According to Peaslee, this year local schools are focusing on learning five skills to avoid drug use.
These avoidance skills teach kids to: Ask questions; “name the trouble” when using drugs; and “leaving the door open,” meanings that kids should not isolate their friends who may use drugs but encourage them to live a more healthy lifestyle.
At last Tuesday’s Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District board meeting, several Richard Crane students were able to share with trustees and the audience their new skills as they performed skits and cheers with an anti-drug message.
Throughout Red Ribbon Week schools will also implement drug prevention skills through curriculum such as writing essays about alcohol and other drug dangers and having students collect articles about drug use and drug-free lifestyles, writing letters to local newspapers about student concerns and designing book-marks and posters with anti-drug slogans.
Peaslee added next week many local businesses would display the anti-drug posters created by students.
Other school activities during the week include dress up “red” days, assemblies and class competition, all to encourage students to be aware of drug abuse and to support healthy drug-free lifestyles.
One non-profit organization that is playing a large role during Red Ribbon Week is the McDowell Drug Task Force located in Petaluma. Peaslee said the Task Force will be supplying all local schools with over 100,000 red ribbons, buttons and stickers and also at some schools, they will be presenting assemblies focusing on the harmful effects of substance abuse.
To help bring the anti-drug message to the school, one woman who gave Richard Crane School over 200 mugs and Frisbees with the inscription “Kids need hugs not drugs compliments of Gladys.” Peaslee said she would like to personally thank “Gladys” for her generosity.
“Its often frightening to think that some of my students will experience drugs and my goal is to at least reach one, so they will lead a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
Peaslee added that she hopes this week will challenge adults to “ask the question what you do to ensure that at least one child will not be involved with drugs.”
Irene Hilsendager’s column each week touches on moments in the history of Cotati, Rohnert Park and Penngrove.