Tips for parents on talking about drugs after teen deaths
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — In the middle of a drug deal, honor roll student Joshua Meeks was shot to death in Greenville County.
The body of the 16-year-old Mauldin High student was found dumped beside a road in Laurens County hours after he had been killed during the transaction, according to authorities.
Less than two weeks prior, another 16-year-old died as a result of a drug deal in Easley. In both homicides, law enforcement charged teenagers with their murders.
The two drug-related homicides are raising concerns among parents, advocacy groups and those that work to prevent violence and drug abuse in the Upstate. They’re concerned about how parents can better protect their children and steer them away from drugs.
Curtis Reece, director of prevention and community-based services for the Greenville-based Phoenix Center, said his job is to focus on prevention and education while the children are still young so that they can grow up with the right mindsets.
The Phoenix Center offers classes to parents to help them understand how to raise their children in a drug-free environment. It offers seven steps parents can use when engaging their teens. Most of the steps focus on relationships, respect and communication rather than lessons about drugs themselves.
“We take a comprehensive approach in the community, education, schools, churches and at home. It’s not a one-shot deal,” Reece said. “Assemblies are great, but it’s going to take a multi-session-type activity. We are way beyond the ‘just-say-no’ days.”
Some of the issues discussed by the Phoenix Center include family conflict, peer use of substances, connection with the community and with school, self-efficacy, or the ability to connect and engage with other people.
The seven steps used for connecting with teens specifically are:
— Discuss rules and consequences
— Show you care
— Pay attention
— Share family activities
— Give and get respect
— Enforce consequences consistently.
“You have to communicate before a problem starts,” Reece said.
The Phoenix Center serves about 10,000 people through its community prevention services every year.
In the death of Meeks, the Mauldin High student, officers interviewed his classmates after he was reported missing and learned he was planning to meet a new drug dealer, according to an incident report. It was not clear which drug was being sold, and the Sheriff’s Office declined to specify.
Three teenagers have been charged in connection with his death Jan. 29.
Lynn McCraw Caroleo said she knew Meeks when he was younger and she volunteered at Bethel Elementary School and Mauldin Middle School. She said Meeks’ death compelled her to speak with her own 16-year-old son.
“Told him to call me if he’s ever with friends that are thinking of buying drugs,” she said. “Teens are curious. Doesn’t make them bad, but not worth being killed.”
In Pickens County, Robert Tyler Butler, 16, was found dead beside Saluda Dam Road on Jan. 19. Investigators determined he was shot 11 hours before a passerby came upon his body, according to the Pickens County Coroner’s Office.
Sheriff’s Office officials in Pickens County said the death stemmed from another drug deal. Two teenagers were charged with murder in the case.
Creed Hashe, the chief deputy for the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, said many teen conflicts involve weak relationships with parents.
“Too often, we see families that are disengaged from the child’s daily activities and therefore parents can easily miss the early warning signs that a teenager may be vulnerable to the wrong peer group or, unfortunately, already showing signs that they have drifted into drug activity,” Hashe said.
He encourages parents to educate themselves about drugs so they can spot warning signs, in addition to staying connected with the parents of their children’s friends.
“Parents are encouraged to learn about their children’s friends and to engage with their parents to ensure that all of the parents share a genuine concern for the safety of the teenagers,” Hashe said. “Watch for activity or signals that something has changed in the normal lifestyle of their children.”
Traci Fant, a community activist and founder of the Greenville-based organization Freedom Fighters, said she lost her brother to a drug deal-related homicide when he was 16 years old. She said his involvement with drugs was overlooked at the time.
“We just can’t continue to turn a blind eye to it when it’s obvious our kids are involved in the wrong things,” Fant said.
Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com