LHISD celebrates Red Ribbon Week



School districts across the country mark fall with a week-long celebration that takes a fun approach to a very serious message.

Red Ribbon Week has arrived in Liberty Hill ISD and every campus in the district used a different theme each day this week to help engage and begin a conversation with students on the dangers of drug use.

Liberty Hill Junior High Principal Travis Motal said the themed days aren’t simply to make it fun.

“The whole point of the dressing up is not so much that the dressing up is going to get people to stop using drugs, it is just to bring attention to the fact something different is going on that day and raises that awareness a little more,” Motal said.

Amid themes like camouflage day, dress your favorite decade and Panther pride, there are serious discussions going on and lessons being taught.

At the Junior High, Motal said much of the discussion takes place during advisory time and lunch

“We have a whole thing about Red Ribbon Week, just short little videos the kids watch, then they’ll answer questions and engage in some discussion with their partners on everything from ‘Just Say No’ videos to watching cotton balls turn black over a prolonged period of time smoking,” he said. “We’re trying to get them in on all facets of the issue because some of our kids will identify more with a fun video and others will identify with the ones that are pretty real.”

The program can be focused on different issues or particular drugs, and this year much of the emphasis at the Junior High is on vaping.

“We’ve brought up vaping twice before this,” Motal said. “We haven’t just waited for Red Ribbon Week, we’ve done drug and dangerous things awareness already, but this allows us to highlight it during a continued amount of time.”

Vaping is seen in the junior high and high school as particularly important right now.

“I would say it is more so a focus than anything else we deal with,” Motal said. “As far as I’ve seen from past data there have been a couple of marijuana incidents at the junior high, but nothing prevalent like its coming into the school a lot. The vaping seems to be taking over as a thing with our teenagers so it has really been our focus because we’re trying to keep that out.

“For us, we started off really hitting the vaping hard from the beginning already having two presentations on that and we have Red Ribbon Week that brings those things together and allows us to put prolonged attention on it,” Motal said. “Then we will have those other reminders throughout the year on remembering what we’ve talked about.”

The district does a lot of coordination in the prevention efforts, but each campus adjusts the program week to fit its needs and everyone has a role.

“This is a big effort, but it’s divided up between several people,” Motal said. “Our counselors take a big part, we take a part, teachers take a part and that way no one person feels responsible for putting on the whole thing.”

The key to Red Ribbon Week, though, is not based on what happens this week.

“This week is very very important because having conversations with students about healthy choices is very important,” said Superintendent Steve Snell. “The key is, what do we do when this week is over? How do we keep those healthy lifestyle choices at the forefront for our kids? We have to constantly reinforce those good decisions to say no to drugs and say no to alcohol.”

For Motal, it is a good way to put special emphasis on the issue, but echoing Snell, he said it is not enough in itself.

“I would say yes and no,” Motal said of the effectiveness. “I would say yes in the sense that it brings awareness and organizes the campus and gives you a coordinated approach. I’d say no, though, that if you don’t have a continuous plan throughout the year where you regularly bring it up it becomes just one week where you do something and then you move on.”

Red Ribbon Week dates back to 1985, when the National Family Partnership established the campaign as a way to provide resources and increase awareness and advocacy for drug prevention efforts.

“I love Red Ribbon Week because I love what it stands for,” Snell said. “Out on campuses this week kids are having a great time with it because there are lots of themes, but the message is consistent, say no to drugs no matter what that drug is.”