In a wide room sat more than 100 fifth- and- sixth-graders at Bridgeport Elementary School, all beaming and eager to listen to Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Juvenile Intervention Team on the topic of drug awareness.
Three deputies from the J-Team presented on drug awareness, the potential risks of consuming drugs, and the dangers of fentanyl on Thursday morning. Teachers and school staff sat alongside their students as the deputies talked and answered questions after their presentation.
“Drugs have been around for a very long time,” Deputy Mario Acosta said. “It’s one of those battles that we try our best to stop. However, it’s a going problem that unfortunately we foresee being around for a long time.”
“That’s why we do this to educate you guys, and give you guys all the information and take it forward.”
The drug awareness assembly was prompted after a student brought a marijuana-infused gummy to school and shared it with other students, according to district staff. In a statement to the Saugus district community, district staff reassured no students were harmed and they conducted an investigation.
The investigation by Bridgeport staff along with some help from law enforcement deemed the incident as an isolated one, according to the district statement. District staff decided it was best to take a moment to educate and raise awareness.
“There’s a lot of curiosity out there and in light of the recent incident that took place here, I think that brought that curiosity and those questions to the forefront,” Principal Kimberly Humphries said.
“I’m glad we’re able to provide this opportunity, so that our kids can hear information from the experts. If we can arm our kids with information, the better off they’ll be later on in life.”
School staff will also organize more drug awareness events for Red Ribbon Week in October, Humphries added. There’s a way to discuss issues like drugs in an age-appropriate manner, she added.
Drug Free Youth in Santa Clarita Valley, an organization focused on education and empowering students to make good choices, will visit the Saugus district’s campuses as part of its efforts in October, according to district staff.
Deputies Acosta, Diego Andrade and Michael Grijalva talked about marijuana, fentanyl, over-the-counter medicine, how drugs can affect people differently, and the difference between medical-prescribed use of drugs versus volatile and dangerous use of drugs made by criminals.
Andrade said he’s been a deputy for about 17 and a half years, and for one year as a member of the J-Team. He’s always had an interest in the narcotics aspect of law enforcement, whether it’s helping people recover and understand why someone began consuming drugs or enforcing the law and arresting criminals, who are harming vulnerable people.
“The overdoses are a problem right now, not only here in Santa Clarita, but everywhere in the country,” Andrade said. “I have young kids myself and it’s personal to me.”
Erin Bulgia, a sixth grader at Bridgeport Elementary School, participated in the assembly with her class. She said she’s been a student at Bridgeport Elementary School her “whole life” and that she feels she can trust her teachers.
“I like it because it was informative, and it helped me feel more comfortable since I have more knowledge,” Bulgia said. “I learned about a few more drugs and ways to look out for them.”
At the end of the presentation, many students had follow-up questions.
“They’re intrigued by it. A lot of them seem to know a lot of what’s out there, which is a bit of surprise,” Andrade said. “They know what’s out there. It’s just a matter of further educating them and telling them what to watch out for.”
Ninette Gharibian, a licensed marriage and family therapist for the district, said the assembly showed that kids are listening, they’re inquisitive and they want to learn.
“The idea is the more they talk about things, the more educated they are and the better they understand,” Gharibian said. “Then they are able to make decisions that are safer and healthier for themselves.”
“If you don’t know how to start the conversation, reach out to somebody that might be able to help such as within the school, like me, or someone in the community that can help with that,” she added.