Diane Wiltz, St. Mary Parish Safe and Drug-Free Schools coordinator, said the summit is aimed at helping primary caretakers of children deal with struggles facing youths today. She said the free event began about 10 years because all Red Ribbon Week events previously were geared specifically toward students.
“We realized there was a need to inform parents,” Wiltz said of issues such as drug and violence prevention. She added the event encourages grandparents to attend as well because some grandparents are primary caretakers to their grandchildren.
“It brings a lot of awareness about drugs, and this year they’re touching on bullying and the different types of bullying,” said Almtra Pierce, a parent and teacher at J.A. Hernandez Elementary. Some of the types of bullying highlighted discussed were bullying and current drug trends, cyber-bullying, and bullying and family communication.
Pierce said at J.A. Hernandez Elementary the students were allowed to wear “crazy socks” and red or “Drug-free T-shirts” this week in celebration of Red Ribbon Week. Parents and children attended the event while parents learned about ways to tell if their children are being bullied and how to protect them from bullying, whether at school or online through social media.
Wiltz said Red Ribbon Week in St. Mary Parish started in the late 1980s after Red Ribbon Week began nationally. The week is celebrated by schools across the country annually in October.
While Wiltz said the St. Mary Parish Red Ribbon Committee is focused on drug use and violence prevention, “We’re not silly enough to think that that’s the only time of year we should be talking about drug and violence prevention.” She said the committee promotes healthy and safe living for youth throughout the year.
Attendees of Wednesday’s event received handouts heavily focused on children and teenager problems associated with the new media age, and the difficulty for parents to know whether their children are engaging in risky behavior within their own homes.
“It (the event) is more of just an informational avenue for me, and this information can be shared with others,” Pierce said.
Pierce said during one of the presentations she learned about 10 social media sites that she did not know of before. “I’m familiar with Facebook and Twitter,” she said. “There’s so many more sites out there that we as parents need to be familiar with.”
Schools throughout the area will be participating in more Red Ribbon events the rest of the week concluding with the Zoo-to-Boo Family Fun Parade of Schools and Fair beginning at Victor II Boulevard in Morgan City at 10 a.m. Saturday. Wiltz said fair admission is $1 and no smoking or alcohol use is allowed at the event.