MIFFLINTOWN - In an effort to keep students of Juniata and Mifflin counties safe, the Juniata County School District and Drug Free PA are hosting a Straight Talk for Parents seminar, said Richard Musselman, superintendent of Juniata County Schools. The seminar will provide parents with the needed tools when addressing and recognizing teen drug use, he said.
By the time a child has reached sixth grade, 20.8 percent of his or her peers have indulged in underage drinking, 11.1 percent have tried or regularly use an illicit drug, 10.2 percent have tried or use inhalants and 4.6 percent have tried or smoke cigarettes regularly, according to the most recent data from The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
"We realize that parenting isn't easy and many of our parents have asked what they can do to help keep their kids safe," Musselman said. "Straight Talk helps teach parents strategies to avoid risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use. They learn what to look out for, signs of abuse and resources they can use as parents."
The discussion will be led by Richard Miller, a teacher with 36 years of experience and Educational Programs Director for Drug Free PA. The 90 minute seminar is dedicated to providing useful information and awareness to help parents, he said.
"Usually, those parents who think they don't need the information are actually the ones who do," Miller said. "All the warning signs of teen drug use can be present in the household, but a parent can't recognize that if they don't know what to look for."
A story that Miller often tells at the Straight Talk seminar involves a mother whose son recently died from an accidental overdose. During a ceremony where she accepted her son's school awards in his place, she looked at the student audience and asked why no one had told her what was going on. After the ceremony, as she spoke to the principal, she kept repeating that all the signs were there, she just didn't know to see them.
"It's not always the at-risk kids that makes the bad decisions," Miller said. "All it takes is the wrong crowd and a couple wrong decisions to start a downward spiral. This seminar shows parents how to recognize the behavior and step in before a life is possibly lost."
The seminar will also teach parents how to start a conversation about drugs and alcohol with their kids, Miller said. When families were surveyed, the parents said they did have the drug talk while the kids said they didn't. The key is to engage your child, he said.
"When you ask your kids if they do drugs, they are going to say no," Miller said. "That is not a conversation. You have to have a real and open discussion with your kids. The seminar will explain the appropriate openings and settings for such a discussion."
Additionally, the seminar will address poor parental behavior that can influence teen drug and alcohol use, Musselman said. The biggest problem is when parents allow their underage teen to drink or host a party with underage drinking, he said.
"Underage drinking is illegal and it's a terrible example for an adult to establish," Musselman said. "Follow the law and set the right examples for the next generation of parents."
According to Cpl. Jamie Brumbaugh, of the Pennsylvania State Police, underage drinking parties hosted by parents is a common investigation in the area. Hosting such a party is a misdemeanor of the third degree and can result in fines and up to a year in prison, he said.
"The most common excuse we get is that parents think they can handle the drinking if it's done in a home environment," Brumbaugh said. "Often, these parents are not involved in their kid's life and are unaware of the actual level of drinking and drug use. It's important to take a strong parental role and talk to your kids."
The Straight Talk for Parents seminar will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 12 at Juniata High School, 3931 William Penn Highway, Mifflintown. Pre-registration is required due to limited seating. Register online at www.straighttalkforparents.org under the News/Events tab. More information about the seminar program can also be found on the website.