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Congresswoman Hartzler visits area schools to discuss anti-drug initiatives

January 20, 2016
In The News

Six out of ten, that’s the estimate Belton High School students gave for the percentage of students in the school who use drugs.

Though the estimate was at most an informed guess, one student followed it up with another unsettling estimate: four out of ten are addicted.

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, a 4th District Republican, spoke with Belton High students Jan. 19, as well as students from five Raymore-Peculiar District schools and students at Harrisonville Elementary School. Her goal: to lower the number of students using drugs.

“We spend so much time talking with groups trying to get people off drugs, and it is so hard to do that, but I thought it’s a lot easier if we can just prevent people from getting on drugs to begin with,” Hartzler said. “It would not only save taxpayer dollars but save so much heartache and lost lives.”

Hartzler, a former teacher at Belton High, asked students there about their perceptions of drug usage in their school.

“Kids are going to experiment,” said junior Mallory Smith “As many lessons we have about it and about how bad it is, they’re not going to take it serious until something bad happens.”

Mallory also defended Belton’s teachers for their efforts to prevent drug use in school.

“We’re 15, 16, 17, 18 years old. You’d think there’d be common sense not to do it at school, but teachers can’t be everywhere trying to stop it,” Mallory said.

Junior T’andra Smith said pervasive references to drugs in pop culture lure some students to drugs.

“All the drug references in music — I think it plays a role in what kids think is cool because they look up to (musicians),” Smith said.

Senior Grant Goffoy suggested an anonymous survey to gauge how many students use drugs.

“Knowing exactly what’s going on here, I think, would help with the awareness,” Grant said.

For Hartzler, the topic of drug and alcohol abuse struck a personal note, as she recounted the death of one of her former Belton High students, Jimmy Barnes, at the hands of a drunk driver.

She also said that drug abuse is often the result of pain in a person’s life.

“There’s a lot of pain out there. Sometimes people use (drugs) to escape pain, which is sad,” Hartzler said.

Drug courts such as the one in Cass County have been successful in redirecting drug abusers from prison and into an intensive rehabilitation program, Hartzler continued.

“Seventy percent who complete the program never go back to doing drugs,” Hartzler said. Her goal is to advocate for drug courts in the seven Missouri counties that currently do not have one.

Hartzler ended the meeting with a challenge to Belton High’s students: to think of ways they can implement anti-drug initiatives.

And with the passing of a new federal education bill, the Student Success Act, the school may choose to appropriate funds toward such a program. Each school district will receive at least a $10,000 grant to use flexibly toward student support and academic enrichment programs.

“There will be some money coming next year to Belton that could be invested in anti-drug programs,” Hartzler said.