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Elk Island school programs help students overcome drug addiction
When it comes to drug use, the Elk Island school boards are focusing on prevention to keep students safe.

“The drug culture knows no boundaries. Whether it’s an urban school or a rural school, it can affect both,” said RCMP Const. Wally Henry. “I think every community battles drug issues. Our detachment has, obviously, a full–time drug unit that targets drug dealers in Strathcona County. But there’s marijuana, cocaine, an assortment of pills. We’re not immune from anything like that.” Even in schools, he said.

Henry also confirmed the presence of a methamphetamine drug called Strawberry Quick within the county.

In addition to other types of methamphetamine, Strawberry Quick looks like pink–coloured rock candy. The belief is that the appearance of Strawberry Quick makes it more marketable to children, he said.

Typically, kids under the influence of drugs show signs of loss of appetite, staying up all hours and changes in behavior, Henry noted. He added drug paraphernalia may be kept in places that are hidden from parents.

Asked about encouraging parents to look through their child’s room on occasion while he or she is at school, Henry said he doesn’t tell parents how to parent, “But you can’t be naive and think that your kids aren’t going to be exposed to this.”

He added, “I think it’s incumbent on the parents to make sure that they don’t bury their head in the sand and find out as much as they can about the different things their kids can be exposed to.”

The Elk Island Public and Catholic school districts have acknowledged that students have been caught with drugs on their campuses.

Within local schools, marijuana has been the most commonly found item, according to Elk Island Catholic School Board superintendent Chris Diachuk, and Marianne Barrett, the director of planning and accountability with the Elk Island Public School Board. Barrett said “harder” drugs may also be used by a smaller segment of students.

A drug’s popularity ebbs and flows with the times, Barrett said.

Diachuk and Barrett both said their school districts have selected to focus on prevention measures to keep students from turning to drug use.

The districts are also partners with Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, DARE and the RCMP, among other community programs.

Diachuk said his district also offers a comprehensive guidance program for students at all schools, including councillors that every student is encouraged to spend time with.

Barrett said a prevention co–ordinator meets with parents and students at public schools to work on prevention awareness, as well as early identification in a student’s drug use.

Barrett said the involvement of family members is key to the success of helping a student defeat drug addiction.

Although their salaries are paid by Strathcona County, the RCMP provides resource officers to schools that work with students and faculty while enforcing the law and keeping peace, Diachuk said.

The constables meet with parents, principals and school boards to keep them informed, he said.

When a student is found with drugs, “We see it as our issue in our building,” Diachuk said. The RCMP is called and peace officers work with the students and families.

It’s not uncommon to find that students with drugs come from a family where either a parent or sibling are also using, Diachuk and Barrett said.

Depending on the case, students are suspended and placed in “Fairly intensive intervention,” Diachuk said.

Students suspected of drug use or drug selling can also be subject to searches. Diachuk noted that since lockers are school property, a suspicion – or history – of drug use could be enough to warrant a search.

Faculty at the schools are also informed about what signs to look for in a student they may suspect of drug use. It also pays to know the students.

“We really take pride in the fact that we know who our students are,” Diachuk said.

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Source: Sherwood Park News