By Roger Hatcher: Guest Columnist
Clovis has an estimated 600 active gang members in approximately 23 different gangs. This has led to criminal activity of an epidemic proportion, including a record-setting 10 homicides in 2004.
The driving factor behind gangs is drugs, or should I say the sale of drugs.
Three years ago, I started a program targeting third- and sixth-grade students in an effort to reach them before the drug dealers. Surprisingly, I found what I was looking for — a majority of students who had not been exposed to drugs.
The third-grade program is simply about being safe and little time is spent talking about gangs or drugs. I provide them with a coloring book and ask them to color one page a day and talk with their parents about what the page says.
The program I present to the sixth-graders is not necessarily about gangs or drugs either. I do talk with them a little about what happens if they get involved with gangs and drugs. But it is more about making good decisions for a better life.
We explain their responsibilities as students to get the best education they can while they have the ability to do it. It is an explanation about leadership and their responsibilities to their friends to be good examples, not bad ones. It is about giving them the knowledge, ability, and the right to say no to gangs and drugs and to choose for themselves the types of activities they participate in. It also warns them that they will be exposed to gangs and drugs when they reach junior high, because there is not one single junior high school in Curry County that is drug free.
There have been two instances in the last three years when I spoke about the issue of sex. Both came at a teacher’s request because of the behavior of the students.
Last year at one school the students were playing a game of “grab the booty.” Both boys and girls were grabbing each other’s private parts.
This year, at Barry Elementary, I was informed of a new sexually oriented game involving the display of “jelly bracelets.” In this game, the color of a rubber bracelet designates a specific sexual act. If you are interested in this act or this person, you are supposed to snap the bracelet and they respond accordingly.
Several children had these bracelets in their pockets.
There is a rape case back east and the defendant is using the defense that the girl was “advertising” that she wanted sex by wearing a bracelet. This is what I talked about as a possible danger when wearing something that is accepted as an open invitation.
Lastly, if anyone wants to attend one of the presentations and see firsthand what I talk about, please ask your child’s teacher. I am more than willing to have parents attend. If there is enough interest, I would like to see about reserving the Town Hall at Clovis Community College and presenting the program specifically for the parents.
Roger Hatcher is Curry County’s sheriff. He can be contacted at 769-2335.