Tags: Geneva Linn
August 05, 2014 | 10:25 AMAs the effort to decriminalize marijuana intensifies among lawmakers, children have more questions about why people are using and legalizing it.
“This has been the year for it, where I’ve heard the most about it from kids,” said Linn Police Sgt. James Bushey, who runs the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program at Woods, Traver and Reek schools.
Some states have legalized its use in certain situations, and what to tell children was an expected topic of discussion during last week’s Wisconsin DARE Officers Association conference at Geneva Ridge Resort.
In an interview prior to the conference, Bushey discussed the topic as well as some of the other improvements in store for DARE during the 2014-15 school year.
“Kids do ask,” said Bushey, about the marijuana issue. “They’re curious to what the uses of medical marijuana are. They wonder why it’s becoming legalized, and what it’s used for.”
He said he tells children about the medical and current legal ramifications of marijuana use.
“To some degree, they understand that there are consequences.”
Although not legal in Wisconsin, in a growing number of states, “it’s not regulated,” said Bushey.
If marijuana becomes legalized, Bushey said that, from a DARE perspective, they will likely address it the same way the program does intoxicants such as alcohol — focusing on the medical aspects of the drug.
However, Bushey said marijuana use is difficult to regulate.
With alcohol and other intoxicants, it can be measured in terms of liters or grams.
But with marijuana, “you can measure the weight, but not its potency,” said Bushey. “There’s not a strong regulation of potency.”
As lawmakers work on that, Bushey said it’s important to address the topic with honest answers.
When it comes to telling children about marijuana and its effects on the body, “we, more or less, give children the medical definitions,” he said.
DARE will also focus more on social media networks in the 2014-15 school year.
“We already do Internet safety, which was more based on computers and cellphones, but now, we’re looking more into chat platforms and gaming devices, tablets.”
Bushey said a “do’s and don’ts” session about using social media likely will take up one full class.
Dating violence is another area of DARE expansion.
Although that typically is covered more intensely at the high school level, Bushey said it will be introduced to middle school-aged students next year.
For the younger students, Bushey said he plans on diving into “Yell and Tell,” a program created by Jean Davidson, a former teacher and the granddaughter of a co-founder of Harley-Davidson.
An accident which claimed the life of her 4-year-old grandson, Ryder, inspired Davidson to create Yell and Tell.
Ryder and two other boys, ages 4 and 8, were playing near a water-filled ditch, according to the Yell and Tell website. “The two 4-year-olds fell in. The 8-year-old boy didn’t yell, ‘Help.’ He got scared and ran home.”
Bushey said Yell and Tell evolved into a more diverse platform, teaching kindergartners through fourth-graders more about how to deal with other dangerous situations, such as bullying, as well as self-respect.
Other areas DARE will dive into more include gun/safety; over-the-counter prescription drug abuse, which is more for older students — and their parents, said Bushey; and service dog work.
Bushey’s wife, Maggie, works with service dogs.
James said that, last school year, they brought in a K-9 unit dog and talked about them to students at Reek School. He wants to do that for more schools.