The Clarke County Community Coalition continues to increase in numbers as school administrators, teachers, students and parents convened for the monthly meeting aimed at fighting underage drinking, substance abuse and destructive decisions by the county’s school-aged teens. At Wednesday night’s meeting the group began laying out plans to offer safe after-prom activities to students as an alternative to unsupervised activities that historically accompany the annual junior-senior bash.
Several students and over a dozen parents and school staff members met for an hour Wednesday evening to map out a range of student activities and programs that they hope will help foster positive decisions and behaviors within the county’s teen population.
Although the group began the early planning steps for an “after-prom” party designed and supported through a collaborative effort between students, educators, parents and community members, perhaps the more important was CCHS principal Dr. John Werner’s announcement that the school system had officially launched a Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter.
Werner told the Coalition that 20 students had attended the SADD meeting earlier in the week. Werner said that several additional students prevented from attending the meeting due to a school field trip expressed interest in participating at future meetings.
SADD’s official mission is to provide students with the best prevention tools possible to deal with the issues of underage drinking, other drug use, impaired driving and other destructive decisions.
Werner said that an additional SADD chapter was being contemplated for Johnson Williams Middle School.
The Coalition’s focus on helping students avoid underage alcohol use, illicit drug use, sex and other destructive decisions was prompted, in part, by a series of alcohol and drug incidents involving students and culminating in the death of a Clarke County teenager earlier in the year due to a drunk-driving accident.
The Coalition has formed to “educate, inform, support and take a leadership role in bringing together parents, students, school officials, law enforcement, clergy and other concerned citizens in the Greater Clarke County Community to assist the group’s mission and the general focus of the Coalition.”
During the meeting Clarke County High School Senior Meredith Roberts spoke about a recent school-wide assembly in which Commonwealth Attorney Suni Perka, Judge Amy Tisinger, Sheriff Tony Roper and other officials educated the students on the potential consequences of poor decision making.
“There was a lot of information that I don’t think that most kid’s know about” Roberts said. “The penalties for poor decisions can be pretty stiff.”
During the assembly the students heard presentations on trespassing and property destruction, assault and battery, alcohol, marijuana and driving under the influence, bullying and sex crimes like “sex-ting”, an increasing behavior where young people send sexual images of themselves and others via cellphone.
Roberts said that the students learned that “sex-ting” pictures of themselves was prohibited under the child pornography laws.
Of course, any “safe” after-prom party for students will only be successful if the activities are appealing to the teens. Werner offered a long list of activities that have been used in other area schools to draw kids to the event.
“Caricature artists, hair stylists, a hypnotist, bungee tug of war, karaoke, movies, a DJ and dancing, coffeehouse” Werner said. “The list goes on and on”.
Werner said that his goal would be to encourage students to take ownership for planning the event.
Parent Ellis Chapman said that he was strongly behind the after-prom party idea. “I think that we can get businesses, churches and civic associations to raise money to fund this kind of event” Chapman said. “We could also have a great time as a community putting it all together.”