The second installment of the “What Your Kids Don’t Want You To Know” series occurred Monday evening at the Towering Oaks Baptist Church, 1985 Buckingham Road.
The first presentation was held back in April. Apex Bank returns this year as sponsor of the event.
School resource officers Bill Carr and Saul Mancha stood behind tables in front of the auditorium that displayed drug paraphernalia and contraband.
The law enforcement members answered questions from participants before the presentation began. Some contraband included THC and Nicotine vapes, all discovered at South Greene High School.
An additional table displayed cough syrup and soda, a combination sometimes referred to as “Sizzurp” or “Lean.” This combination was touched on later in the “The Current Issues in Drug” segment of the presentation.
Greene County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Teddy Lawing, supervisor of school resource officers assigned to Greene County Schools, said the school system was not having as much of an issue with this combination this year as it did in years past, but that they were keeping it on their radar.
Towering Oaks Senior Pastor Dr. J.K. Pierce III opened the presentation with a prayer and gave guidance to parents struggling with how to address drug-related issues with their children.
“You can’t start too early to train these kids,” Pierce said. “Some of what you will hear will shock you, and some of it will scare you. And you ought to be scared; you ought to be aware of what’s going on out there.”
Tammy Kinser, Greene County market president at Apex Bank, thanked everyone for attending the event and applauded the work members of the presentation do to help address the issues brought up throughout the evening.
“We feel honored to work with the team,” Kinser said of the members of the presentation.
Jaime Weems, a school-based therapist in the Greene County school system, began the presentation by highlighting how important building relationships with students in the schools is for the positive mental health of students.
She noted how many students may be unable to get to therapy due to issues with transportation. Weems said that the youth of today is six times more likely to receive full mental health treatment if the mental health treatment is provided in the school.
She presented quotes from a poll she created with 64 middle and high school students within Greeneville and Greene County schools.
Weems asked what the students wouldn’t want their parents to know.
Some of the quotes from the slide were: “What I think or look at through out the day,” “I drink liquor to have fun,” “I vape,” and “I have friends very addicted to drugs,” to name a few.
“Anxiety is the biggest thing kids are dealing with in schools today,” Weems answered, after an audience member asked the panel during a discussion of what the biggest mental health issue students are faced with today.
Lawing presented “The Current Issues in Drug” segment. His presentation touched on the plethora of drugs and drug paraphernalia infiltrating the school systems.
Lawing warned of the dangers that synthetic and concentrated forms of THC can pose to the health of children.
He said that nicotine vapes and Delta-8 vapes — a synthetic form of THC one molecule off from Delta-9, which is modern marijuana — are the most common issues that law enforcement faces in schools today.
A notable drug Lawing brought up in his presentation was loperamide, an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drug. The drug comes in the form of a pill that some use to mimic opioid high affects.
According to Lawing’s presentation, some use the anti-diarrhea medication in “very high doses,” and the affect works similar to opioids in the body.
The slide noted most of the pills contain 2 milligrams each, and that those who abuse the drug “may use up to 150 pills” in order mimic a similar high to that of heroin.
Another drug Lawing warned about was tianeptine; some refer to it as “tianna,” or “zaza.”
He said the drug “works similar to an opioid” and that it, “can cause withdrawals similar to that of opioids.”
The drug is approved as an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication in other countries, but is not approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.
Lawing encouraged parents to keep an eye out when it comes to what’s going on in their children’s lives. He stressed communication as a key tool in alerting children to the dangers drugs can pose to their developing brains. He also advised parents to look through the phones their children use and their rooms.
Dr. Robert Locklear, director of the Greene County Anti-Drug Coalition, spoke about the avenues the coalition pursues to combat overdoses and drug addiction. He noted the coalition’s educational efforts involved in the local school systems, such as how it has been working with “The Center for Communities That Care” program.
Locklear also encouraged more people to receive training for and to increase access to Narcan, a drug used to resuscitate individuals experiencing an overdose.
“(Narcan) is the antidote drug for opioid overdose,” Locklear said after a member asked a question of what the life saving drug did. “Because opioid overdose is such a wide-spread epidemic now, we encourage everyone to have access to Narcan.”
Lt. Joe Prokop, Greeneville police school resource officer supervisor, presented “The Current Issues in Social Media” section.
Prokop warned about some phone applications that many students use on a daily basis.
Prokop brought up how applications such as Instagram and Snapchat are being used by some children to spread inappropriate photos and how they can be an outlet for cyber bullying.
Also notable was the horror video game called “Huggy Wuggy.” Prokop said this video game (and videos stemming from the game) is most prevalent in elementary level schools. The video game uses characters that, at a quick glance, look innocent and recognizable (there is one resembling Mickey Mouse), but is littered with language unsuitable and potentially harmful to children.
Amy Pfaff-Biebel, principal at Towering Oaks Christian School, said sometimes parents will let children of elementary age level use applications such as Youtube Kids, as it is supposed to have a child age restriction set for the videos.
Yet, Pfaff-Biebel noted in the panel discussion that the videos on the application (those that are inappropriate for children) are not flagged until enough parents flag the video, which could result in a child coming across videos of the horror game aimed to children, as an example.
Prokop answered a question about when a child should have a cellphone by referring to the “The Wait Until 8th” pledge program. The program advocates for parents to delay giving their child a smartphone until eighth grade.
He also referenced the book “Disconnected: How to Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids,” by Thomas J. Kersting. Prokop said the book summarizes the response he gives many parents who are debating over what age is old enough to give their child a smartphone.
“When you are okay with your kid viewing pornography, that’s about the time to give them a cell phone,” Prokop said. “Because once they have (a cell phone) and get online, you can put what ever restrictions you want on a cell phone, there’s ways to get around those restrictions.”
Prokop said the time children spent at home and online for a large percent of the day during the “stay at home” days of the pandemic added to how “distracting” and “addictive” phones have been for students.
Prior to Prokop’s presentation about social media use in the schools, the audience witnessed firsthand what students can go through if they are a target of cyberbullying.
Tenth graders from Towering Oaks Christian School Ann Biebel, Owen Philbeck, Trinity McClain and Ciara Mcgee, acted in a skit where a photo of a student was spread, leading to students ridiculing and spreading hateful comments and messages toward the student.
Other members of the panel discussion besides those who presented were Kim Phillips, Greene County Schools nurse supervisor, and Tosha Church, Greene County youth services officer.
After the presentation was over, Lawing and Prokop encouraged parents who might have concern with what may be on their child’s phone, or who may be worried about potential drug use, to set up a meeting with a school resource officer.
Prokop stressed how photos and aspects of a child’s online presence “never fully go away.” With technology constantly changing, it’s even more important for parents to be aware of new trends and what their child is up to on their phone.
“We can sit down with a parent,” Lawing said. “We’re here to help.”