Parents to see what's 'Hidden in Plain Sight'

by Jeff Saunders | reporter Published:

Nordonia Hills -- The bedroom set that will be in the Nordonia High School cafeteria Feb. 21 will hold clues to hidden secrets, but this is no mystery play for the entertainment of an audience.

The "rendition of a teenagers bedroom" is part of the Hidden in Plain Sight program, sponsored by the Copley and Bath police departments, said Dr. Deb Wallace, the school district's community intervention coordinator. It is designed to help parents recognize if their children are at risk of myriad problems, including drug and alcohol abuse.

The free program is closed to minors. Parents will be allowed in beginning at 6:30 p.m., at which time parents can see the bedroom set. The 90-minute presentation begins at 7 p.m.

"It's pretty comprehensive," said Wallace.

Program coordinator Marcie Mason said the traveling exhibit was created in 2011 and was based on a program developed by an organization in Toledo.

"Nordonia Hills is the farthest we've gone so far. We're usually more local," she said.

Besides drugs and alcohol, parents will learn to recognize signs of such things as "cutting" or self-mutilation, sexual activity and eating disorders. Items, many seemingly innocent looking, in the bedroom set, could be indicators of these issues. These include marijuana pipes, including pipes made with foil and empty pens, marijuana grinders, and a type of marijuana scale disguised as a computer mouse.

"It's a functioning computer mouse. You take a lid off and there's the scale," said Mason.

Other items include "Ana Girl" bracelets, worn by girls suffering from anorexia as a kind of underground marker to identify each other and Gummy Bear candy that was soaked overnight in alcohol.

"A couple of them would be a straight shot of alcohol," said Mason.

Then there are containers that can be used to hide drugs or alcohol, laxatives, which could indicate an eating disorder, and everyday products that contain alcohol, such as hand sanitizers and cough syrup, which Wallace, who has worked with adult alcoholics, said she is familiar with.

The presentation covers a variety of topics, including opiates, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, medical uses of marijuana and legalization, and such phenomena as "pharming parties," in which participants "empty medicine cabinets" of drugs and pour the pills and capsules into a large bowl.

"You take a handful with alcohol and see what happens," said Wallace.

Wallace said she keeps in touch with counterparts in surrounding school districts and became interested in the program when she learned that the Brecksville-Broadview Heights City Schools hosted one.

Wallace said bringing the program to Nordonia is part of the district's intervention efforts that includes ongoing efforts to educate teachers in danger signs to look for, maintaining a list of agencies to refer parents to and having an "open door policy" among guidance counselors districtwide to encourage students to either seek help for themselves or to report that another student may have a problem.

"Whether you're a public school or a private school, there are reasons to be concerned," said Wallace. "We do a lot to prevent these things."

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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