Schools encourage candid conversations about drugs

Published: Sep. 19, 2016 at 6:37 PM EDT
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Monday marks the start of National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week.

As police continue to conduct raids connected to the influx of heroin laced with Fentanyl, teachers say they notice students are paying more attention.

"Kids talk about it, they know it's here," said Melissa Kaiser, a health instructor at Bridgeport High School. "They might not understand completely why it's here and why it's such a problem, especially with Harrison County, I-79 being a main thoroughfare through the county...they don't understand that concept."

Kaiser shapes her lesson plans around current events in the community. A couple years ago, the focus was bath salts. Now, the attention has shifted to new brands of drugs, like those labeled "Jungle Killer."

"I go extensively into the beginning of the drug unit about how the brain works," said Kaiser. "I think it's important for them to understand not just 'don't do it.' I think they need to be educated on why they shouldn't, and once you start, that it does become something that's out of your control, because your brain is hijacked."

Next door, at Bridgeport Middle School, administrators say when it comes to the topic of drugs, they don't want to treat it with kid gloves.

"The earlier the age, the better," said David Mazza, Assistant Principal at Bridgeport Middle School. "Once these kids get aware, they can see the dangers, they can see the hazards--and they need to have that fear."

And parents are embracing the conversation.

"If they know the dangers at a younger age, maybe it will keep them from [doing drugs] once they're teenagers or whatever," said Renee Stump, a parent in the area.

"They should show [images] of how a normal person is, and how a person who does drugs is...what the difference is between them," added Ahmed Elshihri, a parent with a child in the Harrison County school district.

High School students, meanwhile, are taking their own measures to avoid the dangers, opting into random drug tests.

"Last year we had 90 members--it took us a year to get 90 members," said Anita Hornor, a teacher at Bridgeport High School and leader of the school's chapter of Drug Free Clubs of America. "This year, we really feel we're going to double that number, because students are coming to me saying 'I want to stand and I want to be drug-free."

And Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin says that's a program the whole district could adopt.

"Anything we can do to support that program, getting the message out, we're all in," said Dr. Manchin.

To hear more about the program's growth, you can watch 5 News' interview with Anita Hornor above this article.