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|Keeping students safe a priority|
Sheriff Randy Maxwell and School Supt. Loretta Blankenstein said work to insure that students are safe in schools across the parish remains a priority.
A drug bust at Vidalia High School last week and news that a 10-year-old was injured by fire in an offcampus incident involving a 14-year-old was alarming to many parents.
"The Concordia Parish Sheriff's Office aggressively tackles the drug problem on the streets, as evidenced by the number of arrests our narcotics officers and deputies make day in and day out," said Maxwell. "In addition to this, our three highly trained D.A.R.E. officers work tirelessly to train our parish's students regarding the dangers of drugs and violence. The Concordia Parish School Board, parish school principals, the Huntington Board and school officials all work well with the CPSO and other area law enforcement agencies."
"Everyone involved wants our children to be safe and comfortable at school," said Blankenstein. "Unfortunately, issues from the world and home often drift into school despite our best efforts. We will always seek to learn more and improve upon the procedures that we have now because our ultimate responsibility is for the students."
She said the incident at Vidalia High School involved a student who voluntarily gave up a knife during a search conducted by the Vidalia Police Department and the Sheriff's Department.
"The reasons for the knife being with the student did not evolve from a problem at school," she said. "There were three students involved with drugs. We cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in an effort to maintain the welfare and safety of our students while at school so that they can pursue academic requirements and learn to become productive citizens.
"We have many programs in schools from elementary to the high school level to encourage students to refrain from using drugs and alcohol. We also have counselors available to all students and a We Care hotline on which concerns about student safety and drugs may be reported. The number is 1-877-277-3812.
"All schools work diligently to protect their students. Every school has procedures in place to follow in the event of an emergency. One thing that often creates a problem is that most students carry cell phones even though it is against our policy. This creates havoc by blocking phone communication and incorrect information being provided."
Maxwell said all involved in law enforcement in the parish "feel that there is a high level of cooperation between the schools and deputies and police. We all have the very same goal -- to keep our children safe. The Concordia Parish Sheriff's Office intends to keep up this aggressive approach to fighting drugs on the streets and working with children in the classroom.
"What we in law enforcement (and most likely in the schools also) hope for is more parental involvement and responsibility. D.A.R.E. and law enforcement can only do so much. Parents have got to stay involved with their children, and know whom they are with and what they are doing.
He said the incident with the "14 and 10-year-old boys was at a private residence -- not a school -- and this office took immediate action, as it would be with any other case of violence.
"All of us have children and grandchildren attending schools here, playing in our neighborhoods and spending time with other children. We want them all safe and we are trying to educate them in the very best ways to stay safe at all times."
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