TWIN FALLS — With societal attitudes toward marijuana changing and the the once-omnipresent D.A.R.E. program on the decline, anti-drug education has been shifting from “just say no” to “why not?”
“When you go to a classroom and tell a kid ‘Don’t do something,’ their first question is ‘Why?’” said Steven Gassert, Twin Falls police officer and school resource officer at South Hills Middle School.
What Gassert tries to do is focus on the potential negative consequences of marijuana use, such as the increased risk of crashes caused by driving under the influence. He will soon obtain a new tool to demonstrate this — a set of Fatal Vision goggles that replicate the effects of marijuana intoxication, similar to the more common alcohol intoxication ones he already has.
He also addresses adverse health impacts, the possibility of marijuana being laced with other drugs, and its potential interactions with medicines.
There isn’t any particular class where Gassert talks to the kids — he tries to spread it out between different subjects and grade levels, so he’s not taking up one teacher’s time.
While marijuana is illegal in Idaho, Gassert doesn’t use the law as the students’ primary deterrent. He views his role as educational, providing kids with the opportunity to ask a police officer questions they might not have the chance to otherwise.
“A lot of it is just kind of having open discussions with the kids,” Gassert said.
If a student is caught with drugs, law enforcement and the school administration work together to deal with it.
“We work hand-in-hand, but we also have two separate roles,” Gassert said.
If a student does get caught with marijuana, one response that’s sometimes used is sentencing youth offenders to a diversion program.