Parents, students, teachers, local leaders and law enforcement came together last week in Santee to discuss "critical public safety issues facing our youth and our communities," much of which focused on how involved and controlling parents should be in their child's life.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Senator Joel Anderson hosted a "Keep Our Kids Safe" town hall meeting at West Hills High School attended by about 150 residents. Topics discussed included drugs and alcohol, safe driving and bullying.
"So often we act once something bad has already happened," said Anderson, who is Vice-Chair of the Public Safety Committee. "We need to get out ahead of the problems, and that's what tonight is about."
Santee Sheriff's Station Captain Lisa Miller along with councilmembers Jack Dale and Rob Mcnelis, and Santee School Board trustee Elena Levins Craig were on hand to listen to concerns and interact with the community. Other participating agencies included the California Highway Patrol, Communities Against Substance Abuse and the La Mesa and El Cajon police departments.
Deputy Daniele Benjamin talked about youth drug use and how parents should deal with the issue. She said the average age of initial use or experimentation of drugs is middle school.
She said the main solution for parents is being more involved in your child's life.
"If you really want to know what your children are doing, you need open communication and to be extremely noisy," she said. "Check their cell phones... they are going to disagree with me and say they have privacy."
She encouraged parents to look in kid's rooms, drawers, and vehicles.
"We need to allow them to grow up, but also need to protect them from society," she said. "Know their friends and their friends parents."
CHP Officer Kevin Pearlstein told the audience that a young driver is more likely to die in the first 12 months of having a license than any other time in their lives.
"We've had our share of local youth in accidents," he said, specifically referring to a racing related crash that caused Santana High School students to sustain injuries and a death.
Pearlstein also said that for the first time, talking and texting on cell phones surpassed DUIs in teen auto accidents last year.
Court Appointed Special Advocate Executive Director Dana Stevens spoke next about bullying in schools.
A disturbing statistic she mentioned was that 18 percent of ninth graders report seriously considering suicide and 14 percent come up with a plan to do it.
"You are your child's most important advocate," she said. "Don't be afraid to monitor your child's social network, look at their cell and check their Facebook."