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Living drug-free is focus of campaign

March 23, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHNGTON COUNTY

Rubber bracelets with the phrase "I want to know/live clean" will adorn the wrists of Washington County students who make a pledge to stay drug- and alcohol-free.

A new campaign to educate students about the consequences of their decisions would target high school students, Deputy Superintendent for Instruction Patricia Abernethy said Wednesday morning.

In a press conference to kick off the campaign, Washington County Public Schools and law enforcement officials cited a December 2005 fatal fire as one of the driving forces behind the "Live clean" campaign.

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Representatives from the Washington County Health Department, the City of Hagerstown, the Greater Hagerstown Committee and County Commissioners were among those at the event.

"Out of every tragedy comes an opportunity," said Robert "Bo" Myers, executive director for secondary school administration.

Cards pledging communication between students and parents will be passed out this spring, Abernethy said after the press conference. Students who sign the cards will get wristbands to remind them of their commitment, speakers said.

Above the line where students sign, the cards read in part, "I pledge to do my part to LIVE CLEAN by talking with my parent(s)/guardian(s) about underage drinking and substance abuse."

According to Col. Doug Mullendore, over the last three years, the Washington County Sheriff's Department issued 253 alcohol citations to minors and 282 citations to underage adults.

By avoiding drugs and alcohol, the chances for students to engage in other unhealthy behaviors such as sexual contact, also shrink, Abernethy said. Representatives from the school system and other agencies have been meeting to address Washington County's high teenage pregnancy rate.

According to the State Fire Marshal's Office, alcohol might have contributed to the deaths of two Boonsboro High School seniors and a Boonsboro graduate in a fire at a Keedysville home Dec. 11, 2005.

"It was an accidental fire that didn't have to happen, and those deaths could have been avoided," Maryland Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Allen Gosnell said Wednesday.

Once the pledge cards have been signed, the school system will return the results to the state, which is tallying how many students and parents signed up.

"I believe this is an important issue for parents, children and this community, and I believe we're going to get some strong commitment on it," Abernethy said.

With the distribution in January of pledge cards to all Maryland public high schools, the "Live clean" campaign will be open to all high school students, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.

The effort is a partnership of the Maryland Teen Advisory Council, the Maryland State Department of Education and the office of Kendel S. Ehrlich, the governor's wife.

In November, the department announced $500 awards for the five high schools across the state with the highest participation levels. The grants can be used toward anti-alcohol and anti-drug activities.

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