Franklin County Sheriff's Department

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is reaching out to young students before they encounter dangerous habits and addictive drugs.

Sheriff Steve Pelton said the Youth Transition Program is designed for eighth-grade students preparing to enter high school.

Deputies and detectives already have visited schools in the county through the new program, which piggybacks off of the D.A.R.E. program, the drug education program taught to fifth-graders.

“We build upon the fifth-grade D.A.R.E. program and continue to discuss resistance to drugs,” Pelton said. “However, we also talk about texting while driving, seat belts, technology dangers, and the hazards of social media.  

“I understand that social media is a part of the world we live in, however, child predators use social media also so some areas of technology are not necessarily healthy,” he added.

Better educating students of the potential of danger online, can help prevent them from falling victim to predators who use the internet to try and take advantage of children, Pelton said.

Eighth-graders are more likely to be in a situation where drugs are present, or where they may be challenged by a potentially dangerous situation, Pelton explained.

The goal is to instill leadership skills in eighth-graders so they can walk away from those situations.

There are four kindergarten through eighth grade school districts in unincorporated Franklin County, as well as parochial schools. The Youth Transition Program also will be at those schools where the deputies currently present the D.A.R.E. program.

“The youth in Franklin County are so important,” Pelton said. “The investment will pay back dividends as the years progress.”

He added that a proactive approach could be much more beneficial than a reactive approach after children already are exposed to addictive drugs and dangerous habits.

The intent is that teaching students leadership could give them more confidence to say “No” when they are at a party where drugs or alcohol are present. Through the teaching, the sheriff’s office will express a better understanding of peer pressure, resisting drugs and leadership.

“The Youth Transition Program has been well-received in our community and I am excited to have the opportunity to interact and build positive relationships with our youth,” Pelton said. “These kids are making decisions affecting their future and the future of our community.”

When law  enforcement officers go to schools, not only is the police presence a deterrent to crime or violence, it also promotes a positive interaction with youth, Pelton said.

Sometimes the only interaction some children ever have with law enforcement officers is when a family member is arrested.

Through prevention programs and a stronger presence in schools, deputies and children can interact more, creating positive relationships, he said.