Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Seventh graders at Edmonson County Middle School faced some serious consequences today at the annual STOP Program, (Students Targeting OUtside Pressures). Although the situations were simulated, the reaction was real as students were visibly shaken as they stood before "judges," "court designated workers," and real law enforcement and administration officials.
Students were handed a random scenario, ranging from disobedience in the classroom all the way to felony drug possessions and assault charges. Each student with a volunteer "parent" had to follow the process that would happen in real-life, meeting with the proper officials, with several offenses requiring meetings with more than one official.
One student had to face the consequences of acting on dare, pushing another student's head into a door. Unfortunately, the victim suffered a serious head injury in the mock offense. The incident was witnessed by a teacher and the student had to visit the Principal Brandon Prunty. The student was faced with a 5-day suspension, faced assault charges with School Resource Officer Jeff Brooks, and had to visit the "court designated worker" (counselor Miranda Brown), and finally had to stand before the District Judge and County Attorney (Blake Chambers and Richard Jackson).
"I almost started crying," said the student. "It was too real."
When asked what what learned from the experience, the student replied, "Don't do these things!"
Principal Prunty said he could see some of the results, firsthand.
"Most kids don't understand the severity of these incidents and the real punishments they face until they're actually put in actual situations," he said. "Many of these situations are from real life circumstances that have happened here at school. Some of which I've actually seen."
The program is organized by Youth Services Center and the Edmonson County Extension Office.
Morgan Esters, Youth Service Center Coordinator, credited the community in a full-group effort as to why the program has positive results.
"It usually starts with giggles from most students, but when they stand in front of these officials it's not so funny, then," she said. "Kids take it very seriously and we're so happy for all our volunteers and our community involvement."
Over two dozen volunteers assisted ECMS and the YSC as well as members of the SADD Club from Edmonson County High School.