Anti-drug coalition could be goal

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marshall County could form an anti-drug coalition, but it will take someone with "fire in the belly" to make the first move.

This was the message that Pam White, executive director of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions Across Tennessee (CADCAT), brought to the spring meeting of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Task Force.

White talked about funding, and how to get grants for anti-drug programs, but said, "I have never seen it start with the money. You've got to have someone with fire in the belly.

"Call a meeting and start to get organized," she urged. "If you want a coalition, we've got the how-to."

Another source of support is the Tennessee National Guard -- represented at the Safe and Drug Free meeting by Sgt. James Rodriguez -- which has more than 30 trained guardsmen helping anti-drug coalitions in communities across the state.

White pointed out that a community can't just rely on its police to fight drugs. The parents, the schools and churches, and even the fire department, need to get involved as well.

"You've got to change the rules and the way they're enforced," she said. "You've got to change awareness.

"It's just a plan," White concluded. "It's not magic, but it works magic."

Linda Williams-Lee, the school system's federal programs director, explained in a telephone interview that the Title IV money which funds the Task Force will not be available next year, and that a community anti-drug coalition is a possible source of funds to continue the programs already established in the schools.

Director of Schools Roy Dukes gave the Task Force an update on safety in the schools.

"Never think it's never going to happen," Dukes cautioned. "We must be on top of our supervision."

High-tech tools, such as cameras in buses and schools, can help, and Dukes told the group that the school system has started on a grant application for cameras on the buses.

The transportation department is trying out a demonstration camera system on one bus for a year. That system has two cameras, a GPS, and a recorder, and the system costs $1,200.

Marshall County Safe Schools Task Force Mission Statement

"It is the mission of the Marshall County Safe Schools Task Force to facilitate the partnership between the Marshall County School System and the community to provide safe schools for all students and teachers.

A safe school is a place where all teachers can teach and students can learn in a warm and welcoming environment that is free from fear and/or intimidation. It is a setting where the educational climate fosters a spirit of acceptance and care for every child -- where behavior expectations are clearly communicated, consistently enforced, and fairly applied.

Safe schools encourage positive behavior, responsible choices, and a sense of community."

School Resource Officer Program

In the school year 1998-99, each school system in Tennessee received monies appropriated under the Safe Schools Act to set up programs to help ensure safety in schools. With this money, and in cooperation with the Marshall County Sheriff's Department and the Lewisburg Police Department, the Marshall County School System started a School Resource Officers program at each high school and middle school. The officers are employees of their respective departments. They are not employees of the Marshall County Board of Education.

The SRO Program is an innovative approach to community service and is designed to establish a positive relationship between law enforcement and young people while fostering a safer learning environment. The SRO Program is a nationally accepted concept, with goals of reducing violence, deterring drug and alcohol use, and generally reducing juvenile crime. The SROs are not just "cops on campus," they are positive role models who interact with students in a supportive manner. They perform varied duties at each school, based on the needs of students and teachers at the school.