Red Ribbon Week promotes drug-free students

Published 8:09 pm Saturday, October 18, 2008

Students in Suffolk Public Schools might look a little weird this week.

They will be wearing shirts backward, sporting mismatched socks, and topping it all off with crazy hats.

But don’t worry about them. They are only participating in Red Ribbon Week activities to help them learn the dangers of drug abuse.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s never too early to start,” said Vincent Pisani, the physical education teacher at Florence Bowser Elementary School.

Red Ribbon Week was first celebrated 20 years ago, when the National Family Partnership coordinated the first recognition. The idea was sparked by the death of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Mexican drug traffickers while on their trail.

Now, Suffolk Public Schools celebrates Red Ribbon Week by wearing shirts backward (turn your back on drugs); sporting mismatched socks (sock it to drugs); and wearing crazy hats (hats off to being drug free).

The schools also have special speakers come and talk about the dangers of drugs, and students sign pledges that they won’t do drugs.

Pisani said starting the “Just Say No” message at the elementary level is important.

“The more often you hear it, the faster it will sink in,” he said.

Since Florence Bowser only serves kindergarteners and first-graders, the message is delivered on a child-friendly level, Pisani said.

“We want to give our children the opportunity to make choices,” he said. “We educate them on what the correct choices are.”

At Florence Bowser, the cafeteria menu will include a red item each day, and students will wear shirts backward and crazy socks – along with plenty of red.

At Oakland Elementary, Principal Christopher Phillips also said starting the anti-drug message at a young age is vital.

“At any age, kids are always inundated with images and glamorization of abuse of drugs and alcohol,” he said. “Teaching starts at a young age, so that by the time they get to middle school, they actually understand how to say no.”

Nine schools in Suffolk are planning special activities for the week, joining an estimated 80 million people across the world. For more information, call your child’s school. For more information on Red Ribbon Week, visit or