How early is too early to begin educating children about the dangers of drugs? In Ohio (a state that happens to be hit the hardest by America’s opioid crisis) the answer is six years old and younger. That’s right, local lawmakers are pushing through a movement that could introduce addiction discussions in public school kindergarten classes.
Dubbed the Health and Opioid Abuse Prevention Education Program (also known as H.O.P.E.), the new initiative aims to address the very real dangers of drugs for grade school children. Education courses would vary throughout the grades, with kindergarteners receiving early introductory conversations and eighth graders involved in deeper discussions.
Topics would gently touch upon everything from addiction in the home, to peer pressure coaching techniques for impressionable pre-teens. So far H.O.P.E. has got some very big backers, including Ohio governor John Kasich.
Its development can be traced back to Wright State University professor Kevin Lorson. His approach differs from from traditional drug education programs like D.A.R.E., with an emphasis on real-life scenarios rather than abstinence tactics.
“I honestly don’t know if H.O.P.E. is the magic bullet,” Lorson told TheFix.com. “But the focus on these key concepts and skills has given folks a place to rally around.”
Obviously, the kindergarten component is generating the highest amount of buzz. Lorson went on to say that there are plenty of delicacies in the way a lesson like this would be handled. Classroom teachers (as opposed to visiting guests) would propose scenarios to the young children, discussing broad topics like refusing medicine from people who have not been identified as “trusted adults.” There would also be conversations about parents who may be struggling and how kindergarteners could express feelings about this in the classroom.
Local Ohio principal Elizabeth Braun also chimed in on the program, emphasizing how the classroom can be a “safe place” for young students to open up.
“We want our kids to know they are not alone,” she explained. “We want them to know that we really are a safe place. Your parents didn’t make a good decision. You are still going to be okay.”
Since its inception, H.O.P.E. has been generating a strong amount of publicity. But so far, there are still a lot of Ohio-based schools who are hesitant to enact it. Local boards have yet to determine whether it can be officially adopted. News on that should be shared in the coming weeks.