Boardman Schools recognized for drug prevention education

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – A local school is receiving state recognition for the way it’s getting the message out about drug prevention.

Boardman School District is one of three local districts highlighted in an Ohio Attorney General’s report.

The Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education report goes over the substance abuse problem in the state and how kids are impacted by the opioid epidemic. It’s 26 pages long but on page 12, Boardman Schools is in the spotlight.

Katlyn Hosa and Donovan Turney are seniors at Boardman High School and involved in a lot of school activities. They said the district’s Brain Power curriculum has kept them on the drug-free path.

“It really taught us how the effect of drugs on your health, and not only on your health but if you do drugs, how that will affect your future,” Hosa said.

Brain Power is a science-based program from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Boardman uses it in every grade — kindergarten through 12th.

“We need to continue to think outside of the box. You can’t just keep on doing what you’re doing because the problem is growing,” Superintendent Timothy Saxton said.

Lessons tailored to each grade level teach students what drugs can do to their brain. They are seamlessly worked into science and health classes.

High schoolers might look at a normal brain scan and a scan of someone using drugs. Elementary students get to use play dough to make molds of their brain.

“Very important for us, whatever age we can start, to get that message,” Saxton said.

Over 3,000 Ohioans died from accidental drug overdoses in 2015 — a 20 percent increase from the year before — according to the report. That breaks down to approximately eight people overdosing each day — three to four of them because of heroin.

“The bad news is I’m not sure we’ve bottomed out yet. I think it’s certainly — have not turned the tide on this at all and it may continue to get worse. That’s the very bad news,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “The good news is there’s a lot of communities that are fighting back. There are a lot of communities that have taken it upon their own to go after this problem.”

More statistics from the report claim about half of kids have abused an illicit drug by 12th grade and over 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a non-medical purpose.

DeWine got to see Brain Power lessons firsthand when he visited Boardman Schools last year and it definitely left an impression on him.

“What we’re seeing from the Boardman School is a positive thing. I hope we see more schools around the state that adopt this K-12 approach,” he said.

“It really validates what we’ve tried to do here, especially with drug intervention and drug education,” Saxton said.

DeWine said drug prevention education is important and needs to start at an early age.

“You know, for a kindergarten child, you would not be talking about heroin. You might be talking about wellness, you might be talking about food decisions, you might be talking about not taking pills you might see lying around the house,” he said. “So it’s age-appropriate and I think we need to emphasize that but it’s important to do something every single year.”

Boardman teachers went through training on how to teach Brain Power lessons. Grant money picked up the cost for that training.

Hosa and Turney don’t think it’s difficult living drug-free in today’s society, saying who you surround yourself with makes a difference.