Grim Reaper illustrates for students the deadliness of drugs

Apr 19 2011 - 12:05am

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(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) The Grim Reaper visited Mount Ogden Junior High School in Ogden on Monday, handing out “death tags” to kids, who then all stood up during an assembly to illustrate the number of young Utahns who die each month from drug- and alcohol-related causes. This week is Red Ribbon Week, an anti-drug campaign.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Brad Barton talks to kids at Mount Ogden Junior High School on Monday about making good choices in life and saying no to drugs and alcohol. Barton used various magic tricks to illustrate that drugs can be an “illusion.”
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) The Grim Reaper visited Mount Ogden Junior High School in Ogden on Monday, handing out “death tags” to kids, who then all stood up during an assembly to illustrate the number of young Utahns who die each month from drug- and alcohol-related causes. This week is Red Ribbon Week, an anti-drug campaign.
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner) Brad Barton talks to kids at Mount Ogden Junior High School on Monday about making good choices in life and saying no to drugs and alcohol. Barton used various magic tricks to illustrate that drugs can be an “illusion.”

OGDEN -- One hundred Utah adolescents die every month from drug- and alcohol-related causes.

Mount Ogden Junior High School resource officer William Farr wanted to bring that point home to students at the junior high as it kicked off Red Ribbon Week -- an anti-drug campaign week -- on Monday.

During lunch, Patrick Danley, the 6-foot-8 Colors of Success teacher, dressed as the Grim Reaper and gave "death certificate lanyards" to 100 students.

Once they had the lanyards on, they were instructed to neither speak to nor associate with other students for the rest of the day, because they had been "X'd" out for drug use.

In the afternoon assembly, the 100 students stood up in front of the rest of the student body to signify how many people that really is.

"This is serious stuff, students," said counselor Dorian Stoker, who explained how important it was for students to stay away from drugs at all costs and to refrain from underage drinking.

"It may not kill you, but it will seriously change your life -- and not in a good way."

During lunch Monday, Taylor Connors quietly walked through the school commons area wearing his death lanyard. The seventh-grader was definitely feeling the effects of his badge.

"It feels like I am being shunned a little," Taylor said.

He fully understands the lesson to students. "This is how it can be in real life, and I never want it to ruin my career or life."

The school hasn't done a big Red Ribbon Week program for a few years, but when Parent-Teacher- Student Association President Camille Mortenson came on board, she wanted to see that changed.

"I came from a school where it was a really big deal, and my kids talked about it. I wanted it to make that kind of impact here," Mortenson said.

Farr agreed. He has never worked as a resource officer at a junior high before, and he thinks any kind of anti-drug message that can be sent out is a must.

He knows of drug and alcohol activity among students at the school, although he doesn't think the problem is any bigger at Mount Ogden than at other schools.

"It is everywhere," he said.

He has statistics that show drug use and underage drinking are on the rise for young teens.

A study put out by the Partnership at Drugfree.org states that, after a decline of drug and alcohol abuse by teens in the last 10 years, the problem is on the rise again.

The study, done in conjunction with MetLife insurance, also states there was a 67 percent increase from 2008 to 2010 in the number of teens who reported using Ecstasy.

Whereas 6 percent reported using Ecstasy in 2008, the number jumped to 10 percent in 2010.

Marijuana use among teens increased by 22 percent from 32 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2010.

Those statistics scare parents, such as Rana Hughes, a parent volunteer and member of the PTSA who volunteered for Red Ribbon Week.

"I feel scared straight, to be honest," Hughes said. "It makes you worry and talk to your kids more."

And although the numbers are frightening, Farr doesn't lose hope.

"Kids are receptive to these messages," he said about the drug-free campaign.

Many other activities are planned for students, including races and physical tests wearing beer goggles, a 5K race and locker-decorating contests.

On Friday, community leaders and police officers from the gang task force, narcotics unit and anti-drug awareness groups will be on hand to educate students about the dangers of drug use, gang activity and underage drinking.

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