A new drug prevention and education program will be taught at Rogers County schools this year, provided by local nonprofit Light of Hope and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Light of Hope Founder Layla Freeman and DEA Agent David King announced the program Tuesday, as the result of a series of assemblies King led at Claremore Public Schools over the last two years.
“It has developed into what we believe is going to be an awesome partnership that we can present in all of the Rogers County schools and hopefully expand into other school districts, in order to teach and educate our youth about drug awareness and how important addiction is,” King said.
The program’s curriculum takes the detailed knowledge of experts within the DEA and presents it in an age appropriate and easily digestible way for elementary, middle and high school students.
“Once a week for seven weeks we will go in and we will teach this curriculum,” Freeman said.
Classes will occur during a class period that is not state-tested, to ensure that students’ test scores aren’t impacted.
For younger students the program defines terms like prescriptions and narcotics and introduces the problem of addiction. It also instructs kids on how to read a prescription label and dosing amounts in order to avoid accidental poisoning or overdose.
For older students the program delves into the science of what addiction does to the body, how well-known drugs interact with bodily processes, the frequency of overdose deaths and the risk-taking behaviors drugs encourage which often lead to illicit activities and incarceration.
“This program educates our kids to know what to look for and to know the effects illicit and prescription drugs have on the body,” King said.
The program is also interactive, keeping students engaged with the information through group discussion and age-appropriate coursework.
“Every superintendent and principal that we have talked to so far has requested marijuana and vaping education,” Freeman said. “It is a big issue. It is a major problem in the schools. So we have curriculum to address it.”
“Topics can be anything you want to cover: prescription drugs, methamphetamine, ecstasy and molly, DXM, drug-impaired driving, K2, heroine,” Freeman said.
Light of Hope works with individuals and families struggling with addiction on a regular basis. It’s a topic near and dear to their hearts.
“If we can get them at a young age and give them the education that will give them the power to deter from the behavior, that is what this is all about,” Freeman said.
Light of Hope hired ministry-minded and accredited instructors, including retired educators, school counselors and college students preparing to become teachers, to teach this curriculum across the county.
The organization will pay wages and materials out of a funding initiative called Light of Hope’s Change for Change.
It asks employees of local businesses to donate the change at the end of their paychecks every month to support this cause.
“Everybody has children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews in school, so you can take part in this and feel like you have ownership in this education at the schools,” Freeman said.
Many school districts in the county have already agreed to take part in this program.
“We need the schools to reach out to us as soon as possible to get this in the schedule,” Freeman said.
The curriculum comes with a parent tool-kit, available online, for parents to learn along-side their children and facilitate at-home discussion. An opt-out form will also be available to parents upon request.
“Kids can learn about this stuff in an educated format or they can go out in the parking lot and learn about it in an uneducated format,” Freeman said. “We pray that parents will see and understand that this is coming from an accredited, knowledge-based position.”
This program is currently in use in major cities throughout the U.S., but Rogers County is the first to implement it within Oklahoma.
Claremore Public Schools Superintendent Brian Frazier said, “The education piece is very, very important, but there is also a support element that comes with it which is something we desperately need in education. The ability to reach out and find a resources to help, that help is what we didn’t have and I think that is really important.”