The Puyallup School District has created a forum for parents to learn about voter-approved Initiative 502 and to provide tips to keep children away from drugs.
I-502, which passed last November, legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older.
A small group of parents attended the first drug prevention forum Thursday night in the Puyallup High School commons. It was sponsored by Pierce County Leadership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth, the school district and the Above the Influence student-run club at Puyallup High.
“I enjoyed the involvement of the community and the interest that was shown, and that this event empowered student leadership,” said Sue Krippaehne, adviser for the Above the Influence club. “These students are proud of being above the influence, and that makes me proud.”
There are 10 to 15 students involved in the club, which advocates and encourages drug abstention among students at Puyallup High School.
Club members attended the forum, wearing their purple Above the Influence T-shirts. Club President Colleen Daugherty said she was impressed by the panel discussion and wished more parents turned out for the program.
“This is something that every parent should come to,” Daugherty said.
Included in the panel were Puyallup municipal court judge Andrea Beal; officer Mark Ketter of the Puyallup Police Department; Sharon Cleary, a prevention and intervention specialist for Auburn Youth Resources; Kevin Benton, chief of the juvenile division in the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office; Karen Smith, a parent advocate and registered nurse at Puyallup High School; and Jerry Blackburn, director of Early Recovery Services.
Beal explained the ins and outs of the new marijuana law. The state Liquor Control Board entered into the initial stage of rule-making in December on the “marijuana producer” license created by I-502. The board is taking public comment on how the license should work, and what regulations should come with it.
Ketter, a school resource officer for the police department, said more minors are getting access to pot because of the new law. In addition, he said methamphetamines are coming back in rural areas of the county.
Ketter told parents to be “horribly involved” in their children’s lives.
“Have your kids be angry at you,” he said. “Know what they’re doing, who they’re hanging out with, and what they’re posting on Facebook. Be honest with your kids.”
Cleary echoed Ketter’s advice.
“When (your children) get to junior high or high school, you shouldn’t be loosening ties with them,” Cleary said. “Start conversations (about drugs) with them early. You, as a parent, are the No. 1 reason to prevent your child from using.”
Cleary said if parents find their children are using, to “remove the shame and blame and seek professional help.”
“It’s not about being a bad parent,” Cleary said. “It’s about getting help.”
Benton said there are consequences if a minor is caught possessing or using drugs. Their license can be revoked if they are found to be intoxicated while they’re driving, for example.
“The law hits them where it hurts,” Benton said. “There are real-life consequences with detention time.”
Smith, the school nurse at Puyallup High School, was the poster parent at the forum. She a personal story about how her 15-year-old son became addicted to prescription medication and almost died due to an overdose.
Thanks to a fellow student at school, Smith’s son was rushed to a hospital.
Today, Smith’s son is doing well and is in recovery, she said. Smith said she and her husband have locked medicine in a safe and hidden the key since the incident.
“I caution you to be more vigilant during the teen years, and don’t let your guard down,” she said.
Blackburn explained the difference between use and abuse of drugs, as well as dependency issues. Some minors are genetically predisposed to dependency, Blackburn said.
“The community perception is it can’t be my child,” Blackburn said. “On a community-education standpoint, I will go anywhere to educate parents.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at Andrew.email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.