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Union Student Safety HelpLine
November 6, 2003
By NORA K. FROESCHLE
Community World Assistant Editor (Reprinted with Permission)
Approximately half of Union Public Schools' junior high and high school student body is taking random drug tests -- by choice.
The tests are voluntary, but they are required for entry into an extracurricular organization called Drug-Free Youth, said Danny Williams, the district's coordinator for student assistance programs.
Drug-Free Youth is one of 30 programs at Union that attempts to influence students regarding illicit drugs and violence, but Williams said it is one of the most effective efforts.
In the past few weeks, Drug-Free Youth students have visited many of the district's elementary schools including Boevers, Clark, Peters and Andersen.
"These little kids will see a big teenager taking a stand, who's very nice to them," he said.
The experience may prove meaningful if they find themselves in a situation where drugs are involved, he said.
The organization has approximately 3,000 members out of the 6,073 students enrolled in grades seven through 12.
"They become role models and work with the little kids," Williams said.
Drug-Free Youth student chapters meet weekly at each building site.
One-third of Drug-Free Youth students are in the seventh grade, Williams said.
Membership in the program is popular because it is one of the few organizations that unites an otherwise disparate group of students in their common goal of being drug free, Williams said.
"There's a lot of kids who are drug free, but there's not a lot of things in the school district to bring them together," he said.
Williams said Drug-Free Youth started in a small Texas town in the 1990s and has steadily gained in popularity. Union Drug Free Youth representatives have assisted neighboring school districts with starting new chapters, he said.
Making students accountable for their actions and providing them an out when under peer pressure or other duress are two key components to Drug-Free Youth's success, he said.
"It gives them a way out when someone says 'let's go get high,' they can say 'I can't. I'm with D-FY,'" Williams said.
Sophomore Drug-Free Youth student Kyle Hanneman said he joined because he wanted to be with people who shared his opinions on drugs and violence.
"You're surrounded by peers who accept the same ideals," he said.
He enjoys the time with younger students, Hanneman said.
"You just interact with them and be cool with them and they see the shirt," Hanneman said.
All Drug-Free Youth students have a red Drug-Free Youth shirt that they wear on elementary and middle school visits.
Hanneman was at Andersen Elementary School last week when he spoke with the Tulsa World by telephone.
"I've been serving them drinks and pizza and then we have art and P.E.," he said.
High school students seem to get as much out of the experience as the elementary school students, said one Drug-Free Youth sponsor.
"I've been pleasantly surprised by the way the students behave. They don't take it as a vacation day," said Aubrey Pettyjohn, Drug-Free Youth sponsor and algebra teacher for intermediate high school.