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Schools reach out to drug offenders
Program helps point kids down better path
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Listen to Stacy Benton talk about the Hall County school district's early intervention program for students caught in offenses related to drugs or alcohol.

The Hall County school system has a program in place, educators hope, that stops student drug use in its tracks.

Since 1999, the district has required students caught in offenses related to drugs or alcohol to attend its Substance Use Prevention and Education Resource, or SUPER 1, program.

"We want to be able to try to decrease any type of incident of drug-related referral," said Stacy Benton, student assistance coordinator for the school system.

The program also aims to improve attendance, grades and "feelings of connectedness to peers and adults, and we want students to be able to participate in positive, constructive activities," she added.

"Knowledge alone is not good enough and we’ve known that for a long, long time," Benton said. "We also try to promote parental involvement with students (who) are participating in the program."

Parents must accompany students to the eight-hour program, which is broken down into four two-hour sessions and held throughout the school year at Lanier Career Academy off Tumbling Creek Road and Atlanta Highway.

Students caught with drugs are suspended from school and then referred to the program, which they must complete if they want to re-enroll in school, according to school policy.

A student possessing, selling, trying to sell, distributing over-the-counter drugs or substances represented as drugs or alcohol can attend SUPER 1 "in lieu of up to half the original suspension, not to exceed five days," the policy states.

The program is open to students age 12-18 and a parent or guardian must attend with the student.

A 14-year-old student talked about circumstances around his participation in the program on the condition of anonymity.

He said his troubles began two years ago when a close family member died of cancer.

"I’ve been kind of depressed since then," said the teen. "I had other things to keep my mind off my problems, but I wanted to try something different. That’s why I bought drugs from somebody at school."

He paid $10 for less than an ounce of marijuana in the gymnasium.

"Somebody told (administrators) that I had bought drugs and they looked on the security cameras and saw what looked to be a drug deal," said the teen. "They called me in the office and I gave them the drugs."

He has been suspended for the rest of this semester. School ends in the Hall County system on May 23.

The teen wouldn’t say he has learned, per se, from the experience.

"It’s not so much as I’ve learned because I’ve had health class and they teach you all this," he said. "Every video that we’ve seen in (this program), I’ve seen before. But help with communication with your family — usually that has a lot to do with why most people do drugs.

"There’s some kind of family problem, not communicating (or) something like that."

The teen said he feels "much better" after leaving SUPER 1. "I feel like it’s not going to happen again," he said. "For that little bit of drugs, it (has) cost a lot and it puts you through a lot."