To inform parents of how to keep their children safe, the Carrolltowne Elementary School Parent Teacher Association will host a community meeting on drugs, alcohol, the Internet and social media.
The meeting will be held Monday, May 18 at 7 p.m. at Carrolltowne Elementary School located at 6542 Ridge Road in Eldersburg. The event is free and open to the public.
Carrolltowne principal Vicki Winner said information about the meeting has been sent to elementary, middle and high schools in the southern part of the county. They hope that anyone interested in learning more will attend, she said.
Michele Rogers, who is vice president of the school's PTA and has two children at the school, said she had the idea for the meeting after hearing talks given about the issues during a United Methodist Women's expo at Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church near Eldersburg.
After hearing from a panel of community experts that drug and alcohol abuse, and other issues related to Internet and social media safety, can become issues as early as middle school, she decided it was important for other parents in the community to be aware of how they can protect their children.
According to a 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey, of 1,188 middle school-age students surveyed in Carroll County, 8.2 percent said they had their first drink of alcohol other than a few sips at age 11 or younger. The survey also found that 2 percent of 1,282 middle school-age students in Carroll said they had used some form of cocaine.
"We didn't know it was starting in middle school," said Rogers, whose two children are in second and fourth grade. "As a parent I didn't know these things — I didn't know what to look for."
Beth Schmidt, whose 23-year-old son died of a drug overdose, said parents aren't always aware of the dangers facing their children. She is among panelists who will speak at the event.
"We want parents to be able to know what's going on and what's happening from an early age," Schmidt said.
Schmidt said parents should also be aware that kids who have older friends may be exposed to drugs and alcohol at earlier ages.
Cyberbullying has become more prevalent among children with an increased use of social media and the Internet.
Of 1,279 middle school age children surveyed in Carroll in 2013, 29.2 percent said they had been electronically bullied, according to the youth risk behavior survey.
Rogers said she thought there must be others who didn't know about these issues either, so she decided to ask Winner whether they could host it at the school.
"I thought it was a wonderful thing — for parents to hear about these issues as kids move on to middle school," Winner said.
During the meeting a panel of community members and agency representatives will discuss the issues. Panelists include: Thomas Clowes, principal of Liberty High School; Sheriff Jim DeWees of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office; Susan Doyle, director of addiction services with the Carroll County Heath Department; Beth Schmidt of the Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Heroin Awareness Advocates; and Master Deputy Worthington Washington of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.
Superintendent of Schools Stephen Guthrie and Winner will also be at the meeting.
After the panel discussion, those in attendance will be able to ask questions in an open forum.
"We want there to be an open dialogue," Schmidt said.
Carroll County Breaking News
If you go
What: Community meeting on drugs, alcohol, and Internet and social media safety
Where: Carrolltowne Elementary School, 6542 Ridge Road, Eldersburg
When: 7 p.m. Monday, May 18