By Mary O’KEEFE
During Red Ribbon Week parents should take the time to talk about drugs with their children and to educate themselves on what is out there. It is not up to the police or sheriffs, it is not up to our teachers or priests. As parents, the responsibility lies at our door. Addressing the issue and prevention has to start with us then we can partner with community members, school administrators and law enforcement to keep our kids safe.
Beginning Oct. 26, Glendale schools will join others around the nation in observance of Red Ribbon Week. The event began after Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enriqué Camarena was kidnapped and murdered by Mexican drug traffickers in 1985. His tragic death touched many in America and shortly after, his friend Henry Lozano launched “Camarena Clubs” where children were asked to take a pledge to live a drug free life. The movement took hold and in 1988 the first National Red Ribbon Week began.
“The greatest advantage of Red Ribbon Week is awareness. It allows parents and kids to become more aware of the topic and the dangers faced with the ever present possibility of drugs in the community,” said Glendale Officer Joe Allen.
Allen was a narcotics officer for nine years and is presently an instructor for the California Narcotic Officers’ Association.
Each school will have its own presentation during the week, and all will have red wristbands available and red ribbons will be tied onto fences and trees near the campuses.
“In middle and high schools, students will be asked to sign a pledge to agree to healthy choices,” said Sally Myles, Glendale district teacher specialist.
Crescenta Valley High School will have pledges available in the quad during the week and students will view several anti-drug videos produced by the schools cinematography classes. Their approach will be away from the negative and toward empowerment, explained teacher Peter Kim.
“We are focusing on what is right at our school and the things we are doing right. It will let kids take ownership of the school by claiming they want it to be a drug free [environment],” Kim said.
What age does the “drug talk” begin with children is a common question among parents.
It depends on the maturity of the child, and the parent is the best one to determine that, Allen said. “But how early do we teach them that if something is hot, it will hurt them,” he said. “We start out easy with simple descriptions and then increase as the child matures.”
He added that parents need to become aware of what drugs are being used and what they can do about it. A simple way to protect a child and his friends from using drugs is by simply locking up the household medicine cabinet.
“Keep medicine secured in the household from not only your kids, but other kids and adults that come into your home,” Allen advised. “Your medication should be monitored and locked away just like you would any weapons or valuable jewelry in your home.”