About 350 fifth-graders in four St. Bernard Parish schools graduated the D.A.R.E. anti-drug program for the fall semester, taught by sheriff’s deputies.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, taught in schools by program supervisor Lt. Lisa Jackson and Sgt. Darrin Miller, is aimed at discouraging youngsters from using drugs including tobacco and alcohol or taking part in violence or bullying others.
About 50 students graduated the program Dec. 12 at Prompt Succor School, some 85 at Gauthier Elementary on Dec. 14, some 140 at Lacoste Elementary on Dec. 19 and about 80 at Joseph Davies Elementary on Dec. 20.
Sheriff James Pohlmann spoke to students and a large turnout of relatives at each school, telling kids they must concentrate on making the right choices to have productive lives, including listening to their parents and teachers and deciding who they should and shouldn’t associate with.
“The choices are yours,’’ he told the students. “And you have to make the right choices.’’
The sheriff praised parents for coming out and encouraged them to continue staying focused on their children, including talking often with them and looking for warning signs to help prevent drug use or be alerted to them actually using drugs.
Educating children early on about the hazards of drug abuse is the best hope to reduce future drug use and a life tortured by drug addiction and criminal acts to support a drug habit, Sheriff Pohlmann said.
“How do you stop the crime problem,?’’ the sheriff asked children and parents. “You’ve got to stop the drug problem,’’ he answered.
The sheriff said the parish jail is filled with people who are there because of drug problems, either because they were arrested with drugs or the need for money to buy drugs led them to get caught stealing or burglarizing, the sheriff said.
The sheriff also said marijuana remains the most abused drug in the nation.
He cautioned parents to learn the warning signs of drug use in young people, ticking off some of them, including:
- Loss of interest in things they used to do such as sports, dance or reading.
- Hanging around with new groups of friends unknown to parents.
- Sudden changes in attitude, mood swings or type of clothing worn.
- Sudden problems connected with school and academics.
Talk regularly with your children and be familiar with their friends, the sheriff said.
Sheriff Pohlmann also repeated three things he has touted for years:
- That drug abuse education should be taught in each grade of school as a regular course.
- That more drug rehab should be available for people, especially young abusers, regardless of whether they have insurance.
- That drug dealers must go to prison when prosecuted because they ruin people’s lives and can destroy society.