“Be nosy. Get involved.” Local law enforcement ask parents to help keep drugs out of children’s hands
BOX ELDER, S.D. — Schools across western South Dakota have started classes, and more will follow in the coming week. One recurring concern of local leaders is the presence of drugs on campus.
In fact, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, over 2 million kids aged 12 to 17 admitted to using drugs just last month. Officials say that part of the problem is the fact that it can be a hard topic for parents to discuss with their kids, or that a lack of conversations between parents and kids in general can lead to disconnection and dependence on other outlets.
“The biggest thing that we see in our line of work at the Drug Task Force is a lot of uninvolved parents,” says Sgt. Casey Kenrick with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and Unified Narcotics Enforcement Team Supervisor. “I don’t want to say that that’s the end all, be all, because there is outliers. However, for the most part, by and large, if there’s an uninvolved parents, there’s just going to be more high risk behavior.”
Law enforcement officials add that big changes in behavior can be connected to drug use, and these may be even easier to recognize than the drugs themselves.
“We have, this last year, made a conscious effort to be in the schools and be involved. Drugs are different from when a lot of these parents were in school, so they don’t even know what to look for, a lot of times,” Sgt. Kenrick adds.
It’s not just the friends kids make face-to-face to look out for though, because online connections may be dangerous too.
“Sit down with your kids. Sit down with them with their social media accounts,” suggests Sgt. Scott Sitzes, School Resource Officer Supervisor with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. “Have them go through – who are your friends? Who is this person? You would be amazed at the number of friends that they have on their social media accounts that they have no idea who they are. So be nosy. Get involved. Check their backpack. Check their school work. Check their rooms.”
Ultimately, the goal of law enforcement intervention is to end habits early on.
“We’re available to talk to kids, to talk to students, to talk to classrooms about addiction problems or the different things that drugs do. And then, unfortunately, if it rolls into a criminal matter, we may have to make that arrest. But the goal is to try and stop that before it becomes a bigger issue,” Sgt. Sitzes adds.
Sgt. Kenrick also emphasizes that parental involvement is crucial to helping kids make safe decisions.
“We all get tied up as parents being so concerned with the privacy of our child. If you’re concerned about behaviors or things that they’re getting involved in, being involved with them, that’s going to be your best indication on seeing and finding these things out,” he says.