More than 600 elementary students cheered as fellow students, teachers and faculty promoted drug-free living during two pep rallies in honor of Red Ribbon Week.
Red Ribbon Week, a national anti-drug campaign, began after the death of Drug Enforcement Administration officer, Enrique Camarena, who was captured and murdered in 1985. After his death, residents of his hometown wore red ribbons in his honor, which became a national symbol against the use and spread of illegal drugs.
Now anyone can wear red and take the pledge to live healthy, drug-free lives.
According to the Office of Adolescent Health, over the past five years adolescents in Alabama ranked above the national average in rates of tobacco use, alcohol consumption, prescription drug use and driving under the influence of alcohol.
But Weaver students Alexis Callahan, 10, and Kara Prater, 11, are sticking to their promise to stay drug-free. It’s important to stay drug-free to avoid hurting loved ones, they said.
“One thing we didn’t mention in our play is that it harms everyone around you, and you don’t want to hurt the ones you love,” they said.
Mary Wuertenberger, president of the Agency for Substance Abuse Prevention, a nonprofit based in Oxford, said drug prevention is a partnership between families and schools. Wuertenberger, who was at the Weaver pep rallies Wednesday, said she was pleased to see the faculty involvement with the students, which she said is crucial in drug prevention.
“You could see the messages really resonated with the students because they made sense,” she said.
Tactics like those used in Weaver Wednesday, where teachers and students danced to the current Internet sensation, “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” by the Norwegian comedy group Ylvis. The organizers of the pep rally changed the lyrics to, “The Fox says no to drugs.”
“It came on when I was driving in the car with my niece and nephew, and they love it. I thought, ‘The Fox says stay drug free,’” said Tawana Bonds, the school’s guidance counselor.
Weaver Elementary Principal Summer Davis said the school does something different each year to promote drug-free living for its students. Last year, students released more than 700 balloons with drug-free messages on them, and this year students made signs, decorated the school and signed commitments saying they would stay drug-free.
Davis said she thinks the activities her school does during Red Ribbon Week can help to promote drug-free living because everyone comes together.
“Things like pep rallies and even eating dinner with your children every night can stop them from using drugs. If we can dress up and be goofy — if that helps even one child stay drug free — it’s worth it,” she said.
Linda Tilly, executive director of Voices for Alabama’s Children, said she doesn’t know whether activities such as pep rallies actually lower the risk of substance abuse in teenagers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct an annual, nationwide survey of health-risk behaviors among youth and young adults. The report shows a decrease in the use of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines between 1999 and 2011.
“To say that these rallies are the cause is making a stretch. Not saying we shouldn’t have them, and it might be a cause, but we don’t have the evidence to prove that they help,” she said.
Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @MCzebiniak_Star.