Though the Liberty County Drug Abuse Resistance Education program may have fallen by the wayside, many schools celebrated national Red Ribbon Week in an effort to help students make educated decisions when facing drugs and peer pressure.
“Students are going to learn and be exposed to drugs by peers and individuals who have ulterior motives,” said Cheryl Conley, deputy superintendent for the Liberty County School System. “Red Ribbon Week is our chance to get accurate information out to all of the students before they make decisions that could have detrimental outcomes.”
Local DARE programming — once a consolidated effort between the school system, the city of Hinesville, the county and Fort Stewart — was discontinued, but local law-enforcement agencies have joined the efforts. Members of the Hinesville Police Department, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the Multi-Agency Crack Enforcement Drug Task Force gave presentations last week to most elementary schools about law-enforcement practices.
LCSO Sgt. Shawn Fields spoke at Frank Long Elementary on Friday and demonstrated how his K-9, Bandit, identifies and responds to five types of drugs.
“You know how when you go to your grandmother’s house and she’s baking a cake, it smells delicious and all you smell is a cake? Well, Bandit smells the flour, the sugar … he smells all of the things inside the cake,” he said, adding that criminals try disguising their illicit substances with food items like mustard and paprika.
Bandit sniffed around four suitcases placed in the gym and calmly sat next to one that contained a bag of marijuana. After the demonstration, Fields entertained an assortment of questions, mostly about Bandit’s sensory capabilities.
Speaking to the students is a long-standing tradition, Fields said.
“Now, it’s time to teach them about peer pressure,” he said. “The next time they see us, we’ll start doing lockdowns and searches.”
Law-enforcement officials do periodic random drug searches at all of the county middle and high schools, he said.
Frank Long Principal Judy Hellgren said the students always are excited to see the dog, which is another way to grab their attention.
“It’s good for them to see exactly what happens and how they detect where drugs are,” she said. Leading up to the rally, the school had poster-making contests, drug-related trivia and other activities.