Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter led a discussion with about two dozen students from Cloverdale, South Putnam and North Putnam high schools at a breakfast at Jacksonâ€™s Family Restaurant sponsored by the Prevention, Intervention and Education Coalition, a countywide group that is trying to reduce drug use throughout the community. The discourse was part of the activities for Red Ribbon Week, which is a national program organized to raise drug abuse awareness. The wife of a slain Drug Enforcement Administration Agent started Red Ribbon Week in the mid 80s to honor her husbandâ€™s memory.
During Red Ribbon Week, P.I.E. Coalition organizers will travel to every school in Putnam County to pass out red rubber bracelets with anti-drug messages, said P.I.E. Organizer Renee Marsteller. Bookwalter used his pretrial diversion fund to buy 7,000 of the bracelets -- enough to give one to each student and faculty member in Putnam County schools.
The organization is also sponsoring an anti-drug essay contest for fourth and fifth graders throughout the county, Marsteller said.
P.I.E. members have tied red ribbons to light posts throughout Greencastle, as well.
P.I.E.â€™s breakfast with high schoolers is a monthly event that is meant to provide a forum for anti-drug community leaders to interact with students.
At Mondayâ€™s meeting, Bookwalter walked around the dining room, asking each table of students what they think the biggest problem drugs at their schools are.
The students responded with the usual culprits -- alcohol and marijuana. Bookwalter said alcohol is, indeed, prevalent and dangerous and high school students.
â€śI feel like every year that Iâ€™m sitting on a powder keg,â€ť he said. â€śWho is going to get killed in a crash with alcohol this year?â€ť
But, the new threat, he said, is prescription drugs. The prosecutorâ€™s office has been dealing with many new cases of students taking drugs from their parentsâ€™ medicine cabinets and either selling them or taking them themselves, he added.
And even though prescription drugs are legal for the people to whom they are prescribed, having them without a prescription is just as illegal as cocaine or methamphetamine, he said.
Megan Robinson, a freshman at North Putnam High School, said the P.I.E. breakfasts help students to build a stronger support system to resists drugs and alcohol.
However, Sonya Cleveland, a representative from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, said the real benefit of programs like the P.I.E. breakfast is that they allow community leaders to get anti-drug messages out to students who can return to their schools and make a difference.