On Wednesday, the Sacramento City Unified School District held its first “Youth Safety Forum”. It was aimed at helping high school students cope with pressures at home…and prevent them from spilling onto campus.
About 100 teenagers are inside the Hiram Johnson High School Theater in South Sacramento. They’re participating in a workshop on alcohol and drug awareness.
"If you’re at a party and you’re hanging with friends and everybody is smoking and drinking chances are peer pressure will get you to smoke and drink."
Drugs and peer pressure were just a few of the topics covered in Wednesday's Youth Safety Forum…attended by about 450 summer school students. Other workshops dealt with gang awareness, campus safety procedures and bullying.
Barbara Kronick is the school district’s director of Support Services.
"We’re seeing an increase in the stress that kids are experiencing because they just mirror what’s going on in their families."
So if there’s an increase in stress at home, Kronick says students bring it to school. Sometimes it manifests itself in anger or bullying. Kronick says kids who are bullied tend to keep their emotions inside.
"We don’t need to have another Columbine. I think we want to do our best to curtail all those elements that are going to create a more violent, fearful environment."
Student input was a major part of Wednesday's forum. 18 year old Maurice Conner was one of several students who helped district officials organize the event.
"We made sure that it would be interactive to the students and we made sure that the students would be engaged and willing to participate."
Conner says the gang workshop was especially enlightening for many students who didn’t realize that just socializing with a gang member can get them in trouble with the police.
"That really got a lot of the gasps and oohs and ahhs from the students."
District officials say teaching kids how to stay clear of gangs and drugs isn’t just about cultivating higher test scores…it’s about keeping the community safe. They plan to hold similar forums in other high schools this coming school year.