“It’s hard to know the answers when you don’t know the question.”
St. Francois County D.A.R.E. Officer Gary Carver is hoping to answer questions and provide plenty of answers for parents of the Parkland. He’s starting something new that is a result of a situation which occurred a few years ago.
He found out a middle school student was cutting herself. He talked to the student extensively about the situation. Carver made a home visit to speak to the student’s grandmother, who was her caregiver at the time. He got the family some resources and kept in touch with them.
A couple months later, Carver was working in his backyard when he heard a car pull up in the driveway. His wife stepped around the corner and asked him to come to the front of the house.
The girl and her grandmother were in front of his house.
The grandmother said she was dropping her 13-year-old granddaughter off to Carver.
“She said, ‘I’m done with her. You can have her. I can’t deal with this anymore,’ she told me,” said Carver.
He told the grandmother he was sorry the situation had gotten so bad and said they would get it worked out together.
This situation still stands out to Carver. He remembers the desperation in the grandmother’s voice and her look of total frustration.
“It got me thinking about how frustrated so many parents are,” he said, “and it seems like we have a lot of grandparents who are parenting their grandchildren.”
This is one of the main reasons why Carver has created D.A.R.E. Parent Education Nights. D.A.R.E. Parent Education Nights will be Wednesday at North County Intermediate, 6-7:30 p.m.; Oct. 2 at West County Middle School, 6-8 p.m.; Oct. 9 at Bismarck High School, 6-8 p.m. A date and time has not been set for Central.
Carver got the idea after attending a D.A.R.E. conference. He talked to some of the St. Louis County D.A.R.E. officers who have started this type of program and have had tremendous success with it.
“I wanted to bring this idea of D.A.R.E. Parent Nights back to our area so parents and caregivers have the opportunity to get their questions answered and give them resources and information they need,” he said.
Carver used another real-life example of why these parent-focused nights are so important.
He started the current school year with an email from a grandmother who wanted to know if he would be at her granddaughter’s school’s open house. When he asked a few questions to get more information, the grandmother explained her frustration about a sexting issue that affected her granddaughter.
“Parents and grandparents don’t understand what’s going on on their child’s phone,” said Carver. “Kids know how to do all these things with technology, and that’s not always great. It’s like a secret society for some of these kids with their phones.”
Another issue that Carver dealt with at the beginning of this school year was when a 27-year-old individual generated a false profile. The man was soliciting students for nude photos of themselves.
“This is another reason why parents should worry about who their kids are in contact with,” said Carver, “because sometimes it might appear to be another kid but it’s really an adult who doesn’t have good intentions.”
Carver covers the important issue of internet safety with students in his seventh-grade D.A.R.E. class at the schools he visits. Those schools include North County, Central, Bismarck and West County.
“I tell my kids if you can’t literally shake someone’s hand, then you shouldn’t exchange information with them,” he said. “Kids give away too much personal information too easily.”
Unfortunately, criminals know how to extract this information from kids. Carver said this is called “grooming.”
“They know how to go about getting that information of where kids live, where they go to school,” he said. “They get their routine down.”
These situations – and more – are reasons why parents and caregivers should attend these D.A.R.E. Parent Education Nights.
“The more information we can give to parents to help them with some of these issues that our kids are having today are ways to keep families healthy,” said Carver. “That’s my goal. I want our kids and their families to stay healthy and safe.”
The topics and speakers scheduled for the events include self-harm and suicide prevention by Tara Stevens, BHR Crisis Intervention; Internet safety and children by Dan Duncan, St. Francois County IT; profiles of a pedophile and grooming victims by Det. Lt. Matt Wampler; juvenile detention services by Jay Scruggs and Ace Eckhoff; dangers of vape by Ashley Thornton, St. Francois County Health Department; and current drug trends by Det. Tim Harris, DEA Drug Task Force.
These presenters will share valuable information, tips and real-life scenarios with parents and caregivers on how they can help their children to stay safe and healthy.
“Here’s what’s shocking to many people and they don’t understand it,” said Carver, “but school counselors, principals, nurses, police, D.A.R.E. officers, etc. deal with these serious issues on a weekly basis. It’s not a once-in-a-while thing anymore.”
Carver, who became a full-time D.A.R.E. officer in the county 23 years ago, said things were quite different when he first started working in schools as a resource officer. Some of these issues happened “only occasionally.”
“Now, there’s never a week when I’m not in contact with a student or a student’s family about a critical issue. All our resources are being overrun by these serious problems,” he said.
The public is encouraged to attend these free events. There will also be an opportunity for them to ask questions and provide feedback.
“I want to know how to improve these events and make them better,” said Carver, “because they’re for the benefit of our kids and their families.”
For more information, contact Carver at the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department at 573-756-3253 (ext. 122) or email email@example.com.
Wednesday at North County Intermediate, 6-7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2 at West County Middle School, 6-8 p.m.
Oct. 9 at Bismarck High School, 6-8 p.m.
Central R-3 (date and time to be announced)