Julia Roberts Goad
WILLIAMSON - Focusing on positive behavior is one way to encourage young people to make good decisions.
That was the consensus of those who attended a meeting held by the STOP Coalition in Williamson.
STOP (Strong Through Our Plan) is a Mingo County organization that works to combat drug abuse in Southern West Virginia.
Tim White, Regional Prevention Coordinator for the rehabilitation facility the Prestera Center, has worked in several West Virginia counties, and says a current campaign several school systems are using simply tells kids that the majority of people their age do not use drugs.
The Most of Us campaign is focuses on positive behaviors. The television and radio spots are written and produced by students.
The focus of the spots are students who choose activities over taking drugs. Music, sports and even shopping are shown as examples of alternatives to drugs.
“Sometimes, we try to do an ‘anti’ message, and end up creating an interest,” White said. “Lets move away from prevention to promotion. Lets promote making good decisions. If 93 percent of these kids didn’t get high in the last 30 days, why do we want to focus on the seven percent that did?”
The fact that students themselves are featured in the ads makes them effective, White said. Students write, direct and film the spots.
Joshua Murphy, Assistant Director of STOP, said the organization was working to establish a SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) chapter at Tug Valley High School. It was discussed that the SADD group at Mingo Central could produce some similar ads for radio and to be used by the schools in-house media.
Also discussed was implementing a drug testing system in the county’s schools.
Murphy said that while Mingo schools do not have an official policy in place, he had been researching the drug policy in neighboring Pike County, Ky., schools.
He said the system has the option to drug screen any student who participates in an extracurricular activity such as sports or band, or who drives to school.
White explained that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an education is the right of every citizen, the right to play a sport, etc., is not guaranteed, and so testing those students was permissible.
Murphy said he was also researching Logan County’s drug policy.
Randy Keathley, Superintendent of Mingo County schools, said he has a meeting scheduled with Cabell County schools to learn what he can about their policy as well.
“We will be meeting with them, and will work on a draft,” Keathley said. “We want to explore all our options, to get a feeling of what would work for us.”
Keathley said he felt a committee made up of members of STOP, community and Board of Education members and school personnel would ensure input from those who could best shape a drug testing system in the schools.
Murphy said he felt the meetings STOP was holding reflected a community that is united in its efforts to curb drug abuse in Mingo County.
“I’m pleased to see that there are people who care,” he said. “It is good to recognize opportunities and focus on them, and to word for change.”