Prevention starts at home
If you are a parent on Okinawa, you may have sent your child to school recently wearing wacky socks or dressed in red from head to toe. While these silly activities show support for Red Ribbon Week, they also offer an opportunity for parents to engage their children in one of the most important conversations in their young lives.
Students throughout Department of Defense Education Activity Okinawa schools took an active role in this year’s Red Ribbon Week, which is the oldest and largest drug abuse prevention program in the U.S., reaching millions of young people Oct. 23-31each year. The national observance is in memory of Enrique Camarena, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency and former Marine who gave his life fighting the battle against illegal drugs.
Our educators used fun, interactive activities to communicate a critical message to our students: “It’s Up to Me to be Drug Free.”
We emphasize personal responsibility at school, but the lesson truly begins at home. As educators, we strive to model healthy behaviors and reinforce sound judgment. However, parents are always the first and most effective teachers when it comes to childrens decision-making. By simply asking your child about what they did at school for Red Ribbon Week, you have opened the door to a meaningful discussion about the dangers of drug abuse and the pressures your child will face as they grow older. Lead by example and exercise the kind of judgment you want your child to follow. Ask them questions and listen—truly listen by giving them your full, active attention—to what they have to say.
I saw firsthand the devastating impact of drugs on families when I worked in Kentucky as a reporter. Methamphetamine use was rampant, and I literally saw families torn apart. One day, I was riding along with undercover police, about to burst into the home of a large-scale drug dealer. With my video camera on my shoulder, I was shocked to come face to face with the leader of this massive drug ring: an elderly woman with children and grandchildren of her own. She allowed me to interview her before police led her away in handcuffs. Tearfully, she admitted to me that through her influence, her children were using and dealing drugs on a regular basis. She felt there was no way out.
Prevention must start early, and parents will have the greatest impact in this effort. Your children look to you for guidance even when you do not realize
it. We encourage all parents to remind children of the school’s right to conduct searches under certain circumstances. In DoDEA Okinawa schools, officials may search a student and his or her possessions or locker when they have reason to believe the student has illegal drugs, weapons, contraband, stolen property or other evidence of misconduct. Additionally, desks, lockers and storage spaces are the property of the school. As such, they are subject to periodic or random
inspections by the principal in coordination with appropriate installation authorities or military police. Drug detection dogs may also be used for random searches of student vehicles, property, book bags, backpacks, desks and lockers.
Drug use is a serious offense, and consequences in DoDEA Okinawa schools are equally severe. A student found to be using, selling or in possession of drugs faces suspension from school for up to 10 days. A second offense could result in expulsion from school. There could also be criminal charges that could put any young person’s academic and career ambitions in jeopardy.
Red Ribbon Week is a great opportunity to talk to your children about drugs and their dangers. No life is worth a temporary high.
Lewis is the Department of Defense Education Activity Okinawa News Liaison.