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Red Ribbon Week promotes being drug free

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

By Peg Reynolds
Source: Pontiac Daily Leader

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Pontiac, Ill. -
Livingston County schools will join the national observance of Red Ribbon Week, which is to raise awareness of the pledge, "no use of illegal drugs, no illegal use of legal drugs."

This year's slogan at Pontiac District 429 is "I Elect to be Drug Free," said Pontiac Junior High School Principal Judy Donze.

The former DARE and GREAT programs, which provided a more in-depth study of the hazards of drug use, has been discontinued due to lack of state funding, said Donze. Pontiac Officer Shawna Gilliam, a Pontiac native, was assigned as the school resource officer at that time, which was two years ago. She serves the three elementary schools and the junior high school.

"She is available to greet students in the mornings and helps with supervision at the busses," said Donze. "Truency is a big part of her involvement with students."

Donze said Gilliam and the Dean of Students often followup with parents and do home visits to see why a student is not attending school. They determine whether the problem is at school, at home, or something else, she said.

"The big goal is to build a positive relationship with the students and families, and hopefully that carries out into the community, because Gilliam does work in the community," said Donze.

"She did assist with a family that was potentially being evicted from a residence, and she was a great help in hat situation. She worked with the family and landlord and the children were able to stay in the district," said Donze.

Also, when a more serious discipline issue arose, Gilliam was available to handle the problem, Donze said.Gilliam has also spoken to classes in the area that she knows best.

"I talked to the sixth grade science students last year on observation skills, and how it relates to police work, and how thy can be good witnesses," said Gilliam. "I have also taught a technology class about Internet safety, with was to grades sixth through eighth.

"Gilliam said her number one job is safety of the students and staff, but sometimes her roll is similar to that of a social worker.
"If a student has an issue they come to me and I deal with that," she said. She also works to build a positive relationship with the students, so that their encounter with police is not fearful.

Gilliam, three other officers and their seargeant spent part of Friday morning reinforcing the safety part of their job, as they used metal detectors to search everyone entering the junior high school. Gilliam, Officers Casey Kohlmeier and Kristina Cook greeted students at the school main entrance with the metal detectors as Sgt. Jim Roberts and the Pontiac Township High School Resource Officer Dave Leach held positions outside the school.

Gilliam said the officers were surprised with 10 out of 395 students thanked them after being searched. No illegal use of legal drugs."