Red Ribbon Week, established by the National Family Partnership in 1980, serves to educate families and communities across the United States to live healthy, drug-free lifestyles. It’s the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign, reaching 80 million people throughout the nation, according to the NFP.
Although many schools have themed dress-up days to support the cause, many are also backing up the message with education from local law enforcement agencies.
From elementary to high schools, Lt. Jay Baker with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office said deputies will disperse to schools throughout the county, some with K9 Units to demonstrate how drug dogs sniff out illegal substances.
“We are definitely going to be at many of the schools speaking to Cherokee County students about drug awareness and saying no to drugs,” Baker said.
With recent arrests in Cherokee for newer drugs like synthetic marijuana, Baker said authorities are working to curtail that activity by informing young people of the dangers associated with these controlled substances. “That’s an ongoing battle,” Baker said. “It’s important for us to be in schools and advising students of the harms that can be caused by using these types of drugs.” “The students in Cherokee County are our future leaders. We want to make a positive impression on them and help them make proper choices throughout their adolescence and teen years.”
Lynda Frederickson, teacher at ACE Academy, said the alternative middle and high school doesn’t have a homecoming or a prom, so teachers and staff try to make Red Ribbon Week like a spirit week for students. “We have different dress-up themes each day and present educational facts about the dangers of drugs and drinking,” Frederickson said. “One of the highlights will be on Friday when the “Grim Reaper” will visit and declare students “dead” from various drug and alcohol overdose scenarios.” Even the youngest of students receive the antidrug message. Mountain Road ES Principal Tammy Sandell said all of her school’s students create a paper chain around the cafeteria with a promise to stay drug-free on each link.
“It’s important for our children to know right off the bat to say no to drugs,” Sandell said. “The more we practice, the more we talk about it, the easier it will be as they get older to make the right decision.” On Wednesday, students at Bascomb Elementary were given a presentation by members of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Principal Ruth Flowers said this is the second time DEA agents have done the demonstration at the school. “They make it a little scary, but I think that’s a good thing,” Flowers said. “They let students know that even prescription drugs can be bad for your body if they are not prescribed to you.”
Little River ES students will get to participate in a “Heroes Don’t Use Drugs” event today with a visit by community heroes from Cherokee Animal Control, Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services (which will bring an ambulance for students to see) and the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office and one of its K-9 units.
Principal Christian Kirby said drug awareness is important because in education, it’s about more than just textbooks.
“We teach children how to be good citizens and Red Ribbon Week supports that teaching,” Kirby said. “When Little River students are faced with challenges in middle school and high school, they’ll have the tools they need to make the healthy choices.”
At Cherokee Charter Academy, Principal Vanessa Suarez said her middle school students asked deputies thoughtful questions about medicinal marijuana and illegal substances during their presentation earlier this week.
“The deputies did a great job and answered all of their questions,” Suarez said. “It really was a great opportunity for our students and they got to see how the dogs can look for drugs.”
Dean Rusk MS Principal Cindy Cooper said her students will get to meet the K9 Unit on Friday and she’s expected to maintain high expectations set by former principal Dr. Adrian Thomason.
“Last year, Dr. Thomason set the standard — they gave him huge gloves and let the dogs attack him,” Cooper said. “I told them I would be scared to death to do that and the deputies said, ‘Oh, he was too!”
Cooper said it is critical for middle school students to hear the anti-drug message since they aren’t far from entering the high school world.
At Sequoyah High School, Principal Elliott Berman said the whole campus is decorated with ribbons and red and white balloons, with themed days throughout the week including “tackle drugs” day, where everyone is encouraged to wear SHS spirit wear.
“Anything we can do to make these kids aware of impact that drugs and alcohol can have on them sends the message that we are concerned about this at the high school level and events like this raise awareness of problem,” Berman said.
Sequoyah PTA Co-President Karen Pfost, one of the PTA leaders who helped decorate the school, said each morning during first period teachers will show students short anti-drug announcements.
“It is our hope that students will use what they learn this week to help them make good decisions about drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure,” Pfost said.