Exeter Township School District and Police partner to deliver drug awareness presentation to families

The Exeter Township School District’s Student Services Coordinator Alycia Lenart and Exeter Township Police Department’s Detective Sergeant Rocco DeCamillo held a drug awareness presentation and Q&A for district families Thursday night at the Senior High School.

“This,” said Exeter Township Detective Sergeant Rocco DeCamillo as he pointed to a table filled with confiscated THC-laced gummies, brownies, cookies and treats, “was not manufactured to appeal to adults. It was manufactured to look like candy to appeal to kids.”

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DeCamillo offered a glimpse into his work as part of Exeter Township School District’s professional development sessions in November, walking teachers, administrators and staff through the ever-complex and constantly-changing landscape of what drugs police are seeing being sold and being used in Exeter Township by adults and minors alike.

“Things have drastically changed in the last 20 years. When the majority of us were in high school, marijuana was natural and looked like pot. Now, there’s so much synthetic stuff out there that’s chemically-produced with no regulation or oversight–and much of it’s been disguised to look like candy” said DeCamillo.

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Recently-released research concurs with DeCamillo’s presentation as a study published recently in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal, “Pediatrics,” found that accidental ingestion of THC-laced brownies, candies and other edibles by children under five years of age rose 1,375% between 2017 and 2021.

Because these professional development sessions proved to be so popular with educators, and because of concern that parents may not know how to distinguish THC-laced edibles from candy or cookies, Exeter Superintendent Dr. Christy Haller and Assistant Superintendent Dawn Harris organized a public parent and family session with Detective Sergeant DeCamillo and the district’s Student Services Coordinator, Alycia Lenart, to bring greater awareness to parents of what edibles are being sold in Exeter Township, what these edibles look like, and how to engage students and their families with help for substance abuse.

During the session, families and parents learned what police are seeing in the local community, and how to receive support through the district when a student or a member of their family is faced with substance abuse.

Lenart lead a Q&A session following DeCamillo presentation. “I want parents to have an awareness of what is out in the community so they can pass it along to friends, talk to other community members, that it is here in our community and they need to be watching and talking to their kids about it.”

Juan Hernandez was one of two dozen parents who attended the presentation. “It’s pretty interesting to see what is out there. I now have an idea of what’s going on, because I would have never seen any of this stuff myself.”

Hernandez is a parent of a middle school and high school student. “You never know what these kids are doing nowadays and they don’t get it from us, they get it from their friends at school. Like those gummy bears or those little peach rings. It looks the same as regular candy. Bad part is, these are becoming normal now.”

To close out the night, Superintendent Haller shared her own experience as a parent. “So many of these products as Rocco said are being marketed to kids, especially the things that look like candy. It’s really important that parents impress upon their children not take things from other people because you just don’t know what it is. It’s something that I remind my daughter of every day when she gets on the bus.”

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