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Latexo ISD Readies for Red Ribbon Week

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 Officials Detail District Efforts to Keep Students Safe and Focused 

By Jason Jones 

Messenger Reporter 

LATEXO – The people associated with Latexo ISD, students, families, faculty, administration and staff have many reasons to be proud. The district’s academic state championships and achievements are so numerous they have become the norm. Tiger athletic accomplishments are gaining ground as well, and school facilities are improving at a rather rapid pace. Over the summer, the cafeteria was remodeled, and ground recently broke on construction projects for a new elementary cafeteria, a new gym and new CTE classrooms. The school also recently approved the addition of several fleet vehicles, paid for by ESSER II grant funds. 

High School Principal Kim Watson detailed several new additions and programs to the district. “Our CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs are greatly improved. This year we started our HVAC program, and we have a very robust Health Science program.” Watson also mentioned the additions of a new LVN and counselor to the staff as well as new attendance incentives. 

Red Ribbon Week, which is celebrated annually October 23-31, is the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention awareness program. Red Ribbon Week was started after the death of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena in 1985.  As a tribute to SA Camarena, high school friend, Henry Lozano and Congressman Duncan Hunter, created “Camarena Clubs” and the wearing of a red ribbon to show their oppositions to drugs.  

In 1988, the National Family Partnership coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week with President and Mrs. Reagan serving as honorary Chairpersons.  Since then, the Red Ribbon campaign has taken on national significance, and NFP continues to coordinate the campaign for families, schools and communities across the nation each year.  Wearing red ribbons during the month of October continues to represent our pledge to live drug free and honors the sacrifice of all who have lost their lives in the fight against drugs.  

According to Assistant Principal/Dean of Students, Mack Dugat, Latexo schools are making great strides in keeping students not only safe, but well-educated on the dangers of drug and tobacco use. “Last year during our regular drug testing conducted by a third-party independent testing agency, they told us they could test for nicotine, and they actually test for cotinine, which is a derivative of nicotine. We elected to go ahead and have them test for that, and since we didn’t have that in policy, we were trying to be proactive and notify parents” Dugat said. “We didn’t have very high numbers. I think the most we had at any one time last year was maybe six students test positive for the cotinine. It was maybe 15%.” 

“This year, we started out the year by continuing that policy. The number we had this first round, which was a little late due to scheduling, we increased the number of students we had tested dramatically, including drivers, FFA, all UIL, academic and sports, and cheer because we feel that vaping is a serious issue” Dugat continued. “We want Latexo to be better than anyone else.”  

School Board President Kelly Nicol added “Due to concerns brought forth in public meetings from parents and accusations that the school was running rampant with drug use and vaping, it was our concern to test everyone to see where we were really at and to get the truth of the matter out and clarify all the false information spreading throughout the community about our school.” 

“We tested everybody that we could” said Dugat. “It was 153 that we tested out of a school population of 210. Out of that, less than 10% tested positive for cotinine.” Dugat also confirmed that there has never been a positive test for PCP which was specifically insinuated during the public comments portion of a board meeting. “The only illicit drug that’s ever tested positive since I’ve been in Latexo is marijuana, and it’s never been more than one or two.” 

Dugat also mentioned that a vaping presentation for the staff took place at the beginning of the school year to educate them on different types of vapes and how to recognize them. “We talked about the seriousness of vaping in our country with our students and how they were directed at students” said Dugat. “It was also put out there by some parents that the vaping was primarily in our girls athletic department, and no female athlete tested positive for nicotine.” Seventh and eighth grade students were also tested with no positive results for nicotine. 

The positive results show Latexo ISD’s commitment to the health and well-being of their students. Nicol added “as educators and as parents, it is our duty to help these children to quit their nicotine habit and to move forward instead of just kicking them out into the street. We want to help. We don’t want to make the problem worse.” 

The district is starting a counseling program through ADAC to help students with nicotine and drugs. “We are trying to help them instead of punishing them” said Nicol. Going forward, the district will implement policy requiring counseling for positive tests. 

Other measures have also been implemented which helped decrease usage over the past year. Among these are a Crime Stoppers program, which offers anonymous rewards for any crime reported, and offers a second venue for students to report bullying. Along with the testing, the district also uses drug dogs, offers drug counseling, employs a proactive staff, and regular walk-thrus from DPS and Deputy Sheriffs. The district also tries to make sure that students are attended by staff wherever they are on campus. 

A proactive stance on keeping students safe is at the top of Latexo ISD’s priorities. Red Ribbon Week should prove to be a celebration of the district’s success in seeing to that goal. 

Jason Jones may be reached via email at jjones@messenger-news.com 

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