FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- Starting sometime in April, a select group of middle school students will learn the dangers of gun violence in a new course program during health class.
Early this year, the Forsyth County school board approved the introduction of the Decision Point Program. The reason the district and law enforcement pushed for the this is due to the high number of juveniles becoming involved in violent crime.
In Winston-Salem in 2019, there were 169 juveniles arrested in connection to violent crimes in the city. An additional 508 juveniles were victims of violent crimes, with six of those being killed.
“Unfortunately we’ve lost quiet a few young people to violence, to gang violence,” said Sgt. Charles Neblett, a school resource officer with the sheriff’s office.
He explained Decision Point Program has been successful in similar forms at nearby school district and is designed to address real life situations early teens will face.
The course will be done in the health class of seventh graders and will be spread out over two weeks (five instructional days).
The pilot program will only be introduced in four middle schools with existing partnerships with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
They are Walkertown, Clemmons, Philo-Hill Academy and Flat Rock Middle School.
The first two days will be for traditional health class teachers to explain emotional health to students. This will include ways to avoid impulsive behaviors and how to handle stress they may feel on an educational level.
Days four and five will involve a school resource officer coming into the classroom to discuss course information, described as being more “heavy” for students.
“A young person dealing with various situations . . . some outside influences, and ultimately some tragedies,” Neblett said.
At the start of this section, students will be given a “pre-survey.” It will asked them questions along the lines of, “are you involved in a gang” or “has anyone ever threatened you with a firearm or shot you.”
Students' confidentiality will be protected by a four-digit code, known only to the student.
They will then watch a serious of videos that plays out various scenarios such as deaths of individuals from firearms/gang involvements, the repercussions on families and the dangers of impulse behaviors.
The students will then take a “post-survey” to determine if they still feel the same way they did before the course.
It will conclude with a final day of instruction from health teachers, who will help the student create goals for themselves and stress management techniques.
Sara Harmon, the program director for health and P.E. for the district, said this will help students in class and outside of it.
“Sometimes it’s not just impulsive behaviors, it’s a reaction to a stressor. If we can equip kids with a knowledge about a stressor, and arm them with a plan, they’ll be able to implement this,” Harmon said.