Sonic murder calls attention to teen drug use

Sonic murder calls attention to teen drug use

MADISON, AL (WAFF) - The teen victim of Monday's murder in Madison was killed during an apparent drug deal. This has brought up the issue of student drug use.

The victim was Jason Ender West, a recent graduate of James Clemens High School. Police say he was killed outside a Sonic restaurant by people he believed were coming to sell him drugs.

Dennis James, director of student services for Madison City Schools, said he has not seen an increase in drug use in students. He said if that situation arises, the school does everything they can to help that student.

"We want to reach out and help those students make more positive choices. But I have not seen an increase in a percentage. Is it there? Yes, but I believe it's there in every school to some degree," said James.

James said school resource officers are there for security and to make students feel safe. He said they're also there to build positive relationships with students so they can be someone they can trust and turn to with problems, be it drugs or bullying or anything else they see going on.

James said there's no one single program that will keep kids safe and completely prevent drug use among teens, but SROs are some of the best and most effective assets they have.

"They develop this comfort with coming and talking to them. And they do that quite frequently," he said. "Our SROs are trained at that, and they're very good at what they do, and our students feel very comfortable coming and talking to them."

Capt. John Stringer of the Madison Police Department said their SROs have seen students go through problems with drugs and alcohol. He said there's often a dramatic change in that student's behavior after talking to an SRO.

Stringer said SROs are officers of the law, but they try to be much more to students than just an authority figure. He said they undergo extensive training and try to build a positive rapport with students, acting as mentors to students who may be going through any type of problem.

He said the problem is not completely preventable, but they do everything they can to help students.

"There's some things that law enforcement just can't do. But if we can identify someone who needs help, needs to talk to a professional counselor, then we'll do our best to work through the schools, the school counselor, and make sure that they get the right help," Stringer said.

The school district also has a text-to-protect program that allows students to reach out to SROs if they're concerned about any problem they're having in or out of school.

Madison City Schools representatives said they will have grief counselors on hand next week to help returning students and teachers cope with the loss of their former classmate.

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