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Back to School Rally offers tips on finding hidden drugs
Parents attend workshop in what to look for in teens' rooms
Lt. Scott Ware, right, of the Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad shows a crowd potential hiding spots for drugs and contraband inside a teenager's room Saturday during the Back to School Rally at the Georgia Mountains Center. The event featured Hidden in Plain Sight, an interactive, walk-through workshop designed to help parents identify high-risk behaviors like substance abuse, eating disorders and sexual activity. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

As the mother of a teenage son, Barbara Allen randomly searches his room for illegal drugs.

On Saturday, Allen was one of several parents to walk through the "Hidden in Plain Sight" display at the Georgia Mountains Center, where more than 30 items of drug paraphernalia were stashed away under beds, in magnetized keyholders and in compact disc cases in a mock-up of a teenager's bedroom.

"I think this is very informative," Allen said. "I'm glad I was here - I found some new places to look."

The display was one of several workshops for parents at this year's Back to School Rally. It was sponsored by Family Connection, the United Way, The Hall County Drug Free Coalition and Wal-Mart.

"With the economy the way it is, parents have a tendency to focus on economic issues, so much that we might miss the really important things like what our children are doing," said Wal-Mart spokesman Glen Wilkins.

Carol Williams, vice president for community impact at the United Way of Hall County, said the coalition discovered that many parents don't know how to spot signs that substance abuse may be a problem with their children.

"Some feel like they almost have to have permission to look in their children's rooms, and when they do, they don't know what to look for," Williams said.

In a 10-minute scavenger hunt, parents turned up smoking paraphernalia, mock prescription drugs and baggies of fake cocaine. But they also missed items duct-taped to the frame of a bed and hidden inside a guitar case.

"You've got to get on your hands and knees," said Lt. Scott Ware, the local drug unit commander who led the presentation. "They make you work for it."

Ware, whose unit is accustomed to searching for drugs, said the trash can should never be overlooked.

"It's one of the best places to learn about an individual," he said.

And though Ware and his officers usually need a warrant or verbal permission to search, a parent does not.

"Unless your child is paying rent, they have no expectation of privacy," Ware said. "I like my daughter to like me, but at some point you've got to be a parent. You might be saving someone's life."

Dennis Israel, a retired school teacher with grandchildren, said if a parent searches a room, it should be "a thorough investigation."

"They can hide things anywhere," he said.

Said Ware, "I'm hoping this gives parents ideas about how crafty someone can be if they want something hidden. They're only limited by their imagination."