Showing rather than telling students what will happen if they become involved the use of illegal drugs is the goal of a work in progress at Howard Eighth Grade Center.
Student Anna Wilhoite participated in the video project, which portrays the mock scenario of a student who brings marijuana to school and is arrested on campus when another student reports her.
There will be three episodes in the project. The arrest portion of the mock scenario has been completed and takes Anna from a conference with Dawn Hilburn, vice principal, to an arrest by Waxahachie police officer Wess Winn.
The second episode in the mock scenario will be the trial phase, which will be filmed in Jackie Miller’s courtroom. The final segment will show the repercussions of a bad choice as the student interviews for a job, learning that past actions can indeed affect the future.
“This is a great project for students to see – to show them the possibility of making mistakes. It hasn’t happened to many kiddos, but there is a reality out there – this is happening to some students,” said Robert Woodhouse, principal.
Hilburn said the project takes a proactive instead of reactive approach. Clay Scarborough, multi-media teacher, filmed the sequence.
In the video, Hilburn confronts Anna in a conference room after she says the drugs aren’t hers and she doesn’t know how they got into her backpack.
“Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” Hilburn says before telling her she has contacted the Waxahachie police.
Winn enters, reads Anna her rights, handcuffs her and places her in the police cruiser for the ride downtown. There she is photographed and fingerprinted before being placed in a holding cell.
The idea for the project originated with the Professional Learning Communities Team.
“We plan for activities during our Pride Time, which is every Thursday. We teach things like bullying. We teach things like respect, responsibility. We just wanted something that would impact kids more so they would see ‘this can happen to me,’ ” Hilburn said. “We tell them that all the time, but we needed something they could really see.”
Counselor Martha Cunningham said rather than purchasing a film to show the students, they decided to make their own video with people from the school.
“They can really identify with it if it’s one of our own kids,” Cunningham said.
In selecting who would portray the student in the filming, Winn said they wanted to use a student who hadn’t been in trouble before. Woodhouse approached Anna’s mother, Jennifer Wilhoite, for permission before discussing it with Anna. She said she had no doubt her daughter would want to participate. Anna hopes to pursue a career in law enforcement some day.
“I’ve always watched cop shows. It’s cool how they get the bad people off the street,” Anna said. “I just want to do that. I want to keep the public safe.”
The students have already viewed the 11-minute arrest and Anna said afterward, “Everyone was talking about it.” The presentation is followed by a question and answer session with a prepared list of questions including: What charges do you think will be filed against Anna? What do you think will be her punishment from the police and from the school? Will this affect Anna’s opportunities later in life such as college and job opportunities?
Anna said she thinks poor choices by students can be caused by peer pressure and Hilburn agreed.
“Kids this age are easily swayed the wrong way. It’s about choices – good or bad. And this is what can happen,” Hilburn said.
The trial phase will be produced in the next few weeks and local attorneys have been enlisted for the filming.
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