As two Keppel Elementary School teachers lay side by side on the playground blacktop Wednesday, there were more than a few wide eyes in the crowd. But with a kick of his pedals, pro BMX rider Shawn White — no relation to the red-headed Olympic snowboarder by the same name — cleared the pair with several inches to spare.
It was one of scores of tricks White performed during the Red Ribbon Week event, designed to turn students off from drugs and on to healthy alternatives.
“This practices individualism,” said the decorated BMX rider and veteran Red Ribbon Week performer. “This gets you off the couch. This isn’t a team sport. This is self-motivating and self-entertaining.”
It was the second consecutive year the Keppel Elementary School PTA has sponsored the BMX assembly, said school parent Kim Fedrick.
“I don’t think you can start too early teaching kids about making healthy choices,” she said.
Red Ribbon Week dates back to 1985 when a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent was killed by Mexican drug traffickers while working undercover in Mexico. The campaign eventually went national, with participants pledging to live drug-free lives in recognition of the sacrifices of law enforcement and others amid the drug war.
Today, schools across the country mark Red Ribbon Week with guest speakers and presentations aimed at educating youth about the dangers of illegal drug use. Glendale Unified kicked off its events on Friday when a DEA helicopter landed at Lincoln Elementary School, followed this week by demonstrations by those on the front lines of the drug epidemic.
“We want to get them at a young age and let them know there is going to be peer pressure, and you are going to be offered drugs at some point in your life,” said Scott Anderle, the district’s student support services coordinator.
For secondary students, some of the programming included a somber tone. At Rosemont Middle School, a Grim Reaper moved through classrooms and selected “victims,” symbolic of the lives lost to drugs, Anderle said.
“Times have changed,” Anderle said. “A number of years ago…we didn’t have situations where students had relatives with medical marijuana prescriptions. There just seems to be more access right now, and so we want to get them started early to let them know those are not good choices to be making.”