Celebrity behavior makes it difficult to reinforce the message
SIKESTON -- With celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears -- once considered positive role models -- going in and out of drug rehabilitation programs, educators and parents may find it difficult to reinforce the "Just say no" message with young people today.
But as the national anti-drug campaign, Red Ribbon Week set for Oct. 20-28, approaches, local educators say they're ready for whatever issues are thrown at them.
Kelly Bright, sixth grade counselor at the Sikeston R-6 Fifth and Sixth Grade Education Center, said celebrities like Lohan and Spears haven't really been brought up by her students this year. And even though it's a tough topic, she's prepared to address it, Bright said.
"Our demographics are a little different. I fight (the stigma of) more of that rap kind of music," Bright said.
Daniel Adams, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., officer and school resource officer for Sikeston Department of Public Safety, said the topics of celebrities driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, using illegal drugs and drinking alcohol while underage haven't been discussed but he plans to, he said.
"We just started the D.A.R.E. curriculum last week," Adams said. "On Wednesday we started about decision-making and using a model set up for D.A.R.E. Next week we'll go over the harmful effects of drugs."
For about 10 weeks, Adams will visit once a week with fifth graders in the Sikeston R-6 district to educate them about the dangers of drug and alcohol use and bad decision-making.
Adams is also the father of an 8-year-old and 5-year-old twin sons, who are fans of Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" and "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody."
As a parent, he has his own opinion about today's role models for tweens and teens.
"I don't care too much for Britney and Lindsay. Lindsay is constantly in trouble. It's a person who does cocaine and drinks alcohol underage and gets intoxicated," Adams said.
With the exception of "High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens, whose nude photos recently wound up on the Internet, actors from Disney Channel productions seem to be good role models, Adams said.
However, Lohan starred in several Disney films, and Spears was a Mouseketeer, Adams pointed out.
Although he hasn't heard opinions about today's celebrity role models from his students at school, Adams said he has heard the seventh and eighth grade students in the Sunday school class he teaches at his church discuss them.
"They were talking about Vanessa (Hudgens) from 'High School Musical,'" Adams said. "The kids said in Disney Channel shows the characters do obey their parents, and you don't hear about the actors in the news."
But does it make a difference if celebrities are remorseful about their actions?
"As long as they're sincere about it," Adams said.
Lohan, 21, was released last week after a nearly two-month stint in rehab (her third and longest trip since January). Following her re-emergence in the public eye, Lohan told In Touch Weekly she wanted to apologize to her fans, especially the younger ones for setting a bad example.
Spears, 25, continues to fight for custody of her 1- and 2-year-old sons after a judge recently granted custody to her ex-husband.
One aspect of Red Ribbon Week will focus on providing students with examples of positive role models by inviting Sikeston High School students, Bright said.
"We're going to pull some kids from the high school who are good in sports, music, academics -- and all different areas," Bright said.
Someone will also be speaking to the students about Red Ribbon Week, what it means and the story behind its origin, Bright said.
Both Adams and Bright said they think their students realize some celebrities aren't positive influences.
Parents also play a major role in their children being drug-free and making good decisions, Adams said.
"The parents just need to monitor what their kids are watching and these celebrities how they're used for their role models," Adams said. "Investigate before buying Britney Spears posters and letting your child put them all over the wall."