Red Ribbon Week's focus is on ending drug use

By Greg Gelpi

Bombarded with messages everywhere they turn from the guy on the street corner to the pop-up computer ad in the privacy of their own home, children are deluged with information on drugs and alcohol.

During Georgia Red Ribbon Week from Oct. 23 to 31, schools in Clayton and Henry counties will dispel the myths and warn students of the dangers of drug and alcohol use through education and various activities.

"We stress the importance of living healthy by avoiding drugs and alcohol. You're going to live a lot longer that way," said Sherry Crews, one of the coordinators of Red Ribbon Week events at Riverdale Elementary. "One way or another, it's going to kill you. It's like a slow death."

Celebrating with a variety of themes, Riverdale students will "sock it to drugs" by wearing mismatched socks one day, one of a number of ways they will show their decision to say no to drugs through the clothes they wear.

Fortifying her students through a dose of knowledge and activity, Crews hopes that by addressing these issues at a young age the students will be prepared to fend off the peer pressure she knows they will encounter in middle school.

"Hopefully, it will sink into somebody, into some of these kids," she said, adding that by the amount of participation in years past, the message must be sinking in.

Riverdale's week will also feature an anti-drug and alcohol walk around the school track and the students forming the words "Just say no" on their athletic field.

Years of drug education may be reaching students in Henry County. Through all of last school year, 81 of Henry's 28,000 school children were caught with drugs, 45 of which had marijuana and 21 of which had prescription drugs, said Anna Arnold, the family resource coordinator for Henry schools. No one was caught with any other types of drugs, such as heroine or crack cocaine.

"I don't think that there is an increase, but I just wouldn't say there has been a decrease," Arnold said. "We would definitely not be labeled as a county in dire need of help, but it definitely is a problem."

Every school in Henry submitted plans to celebrate Red Ribbon Week.

Henry's festivities will range from special clothing days to an unusual volleyball match-up, Arnold said. Unity Grove Elementary will have a different clothing activity each day, including wearing hats on "Put a cap on drugs" day and pajamas on "Drugs destroy dreams" day. Pleasant Grove Elementary students will be treated to a volleyball game between the county champion Union Grove volleyball team between and school personnel.

Local decreases in drug use are reflective of a national trend. According to the latest information available from the U.S. Department of Health and Hospitals, "Use of marijuana, some club drugs, cigarettes and alcohol decreased from 2001 to 2002."

The study collected data on students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades and found a "significant" decline in all illicit drugs for 8th and 10th grades.