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Luncheon gives kids a chance to speak out

January 18, 1999

Student luncheonBy MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




At the age of 9, Chris Dorm shouldn't have too many worries.

But on Monday at a kids' speak-out luncheon at the Martin Luther King Center, the youngster said he is concerned about drug dealing in the Jonathan Street neighborhood.

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"It makes me feel scared," he said.

Listening to his fears were Hagerstown Police Chief Dale Jones and other community leaders who spent two hours answering questions from children as young as 5.

More than 25 children signed up for the event sponsored by the Memorial Recreation Center.

After a pizza and hot dog lunch, the panel of adults, including Willie Conyers, a Western Heights school teacher; Stanley Brown, a Department of Juvenile Justice caseworker; Carolyn Brooks, HotSpots director; and Chief Jones fielded more than a dozen questions.

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"How come the police harass kids about their clothes?" asked pre-teen Eric Rollins.

Jones said his officers don't do that unless they think the clothes are a gang-related statement.

Dwight Fulton, 10, wanted Conyers to tell him what kind of teacher he is.

"I'm a special education teacher at Western Heights," Conyers said.

Conyers went on to talk to the youngsters about bus stop behavior, both before and after school.

"If you have drugs on the bus or at school, your privilege to go to school could stop," Conyers said.

Ruth Monroe, one of the organizers of the speak-out, told the children that they might get away with doing those things for a while but eventually they would get caught.

"Why don't you get the drug buyers instead of the drug sellers?" Mark Spencer, 16, asked Jones.

Jones replied that police sometimes do a reverse sting in which the officers pretend to be drug dealers instead of buyers.

Several youngsters responded on a written questionnaire that they wanted to be police officers when they grow up. Three officers were on hand to give advice.

"You've got to pay attention in school," said Officer Brett McCoy.

Officer Justin Wert said the secret is to be open to learning. "And you have to avoid temptation," Wert said.

Graduate from high school and stay out of trouble was Officer Wayne Zimmerer's advice.

Dwight Fulton was concerned about police using pepper spray on people.

"We get sprayed with pepper spray ourselves during our training before we are allowed to carry it," McCoy told Dwight.

In parting, Jones told the children to be careful about the choices they make.

"If someone asks you to hold something for them or to carry money to someone else for them, say no and tell an adult," Jones said.

To say yes to such a proposition could be the beginning of bad choices. "You could get involved and not be able to get out," Jones said.

When that happens, Brown said, children might be removed from their homes for months or years because of their behavior.

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