Las Vegas Sun

January 21, 2018

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Where I Stand: Sun Youth Forum:

Starting DARE in fifth grade is ineffective

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About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 56th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Gabrielle Kanter of Advanced Technologies Academy writes about issues covered by her group, Teen Topics.

Teens today expand upon their triumphs and defeats by blogging, sharing and commenting through social media, yet seldom feel heard by the adults who lead the community.

On Nov. 20, high school juniors and seniors from schools across the valley had the opportunity to voice their opinions about a variety of topics by participating in the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum.

Participants in the Teen Topics group were prompted to address issues concerning teens throughout the community. They addressed four important topics: the DARE program, teen pregnancy, bullying within schools and cyberbullying.

Moderator Sandy Miller began the day with the discussion about the drug prevention program DARE. Participants reached a consensus that the DARE program, as it currently stands, lacks effectiveness. To understand why the group felt that way, importance may be attributed to the program’s fifth-grade participants, who are far too young. Rather, DARE should be started in the seventh grade and offered as a continuing education program throughout middle and high school. Students felt this would allow a more mature curriculum to be taught rather than the very “sugar-coated” information taught now.

Students offered a few suggestions that included turning management over to School District campus security monitors to enlarge the program while maintaining the budget.

Participants then transitioned to the controversial topic of teen pregnancy. Although we agreed that schools should teach sex education differently, we could not reach a consensus on how.

Most teens in the group felt that teaching students about contraceptives is vital. They also wanted such contraceptives to be more easily available to teens, or at least information about places where they can receive contraceptives.

Critics of this plan spoke about the significance of teaching abstinence to students and returning to the “traditional thinking” about sex. However, the majority of students found this to be unrealistic with the structure of society.

Participants then weighed in on other methods to prevent pregnancy. One popular suggestion was to convey to teens the consequences of having sex irresponsibly. They concluded that teens should be shown the reality of their irresponsibility by being thrust into simulated adulthood, including exploring the financial responsibility of being a parent.

After breaking for lunch, students returned full of ideas concerning the issues of bullying and cyberbullying. They argued that although bullying may not be a prominent concern in all schools, there is always more that can be done to prevent it. Students discussed effective anti-bullying programs within their schools such as Flip the Script, theater performances depicting bullying situations, “safe classrooms” within their schools and freshman mentoring programs.

Teens called for a summit with principals and student leaders, especially student council members of Southern Nevada’s schools. Their time would be spent discussing bullying problems and proposing solutions. From there, summit attendees would implement new anti-bullying policies specifically tailored to their school’s needs.

Teens’ comments and opinions could not be disregarded at the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum. The forum exemplifies the idea that granting students the opportunity to voice their opinions results in solutions that may help shape a more positive community.

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