MISSION — About 50 parents gathered at the Sharyland school district administration building Thursday morning to learn about the latest cigarette, drug and alcohol crazes happening among students.
The parents attended a two-hour-long presentation led by Vianca Vieyra, consultant specialist for UNIDAD Coalition, alongside Mission police officers Julio Perez and Rolando Flores.
The main goal was to get them up to date on the current substances of choice among teenagers, according to what officers and counselors are seeing in the region.
“We have to be informed and up to date to prevent and be able to talk to our children,” said Zoraida Mena in Spanish, who was accompanied by her husband Cesar Mena. The couple has two students in the district and found out about the meeting via an email sent by the district and immediately decided to attend together.
“It’s good to keep an eye on the different behaviors, we talk daily with them, but even with that they are not going to tell you everything so it’s good to know what’s happening inside the school,” Cesar Mena said.
Drugs of choice can range from alcoholic drinks mixed with codeine, to synthetic drugs such as spice, to vape pens used to smoke THC oils, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
Vieyra said they have even heard from teens themselves who make their own spice taking grass, mixing it with Raid insecticide and painting it make it look more like marijuana.
“That was here in our region. I’m not going to say what school, but a lot of the times we think it comes from China, from Mexico or other parts, but people are making it in their homes,” she said in Spanish.
Even though many chemical combinations have been made illegal in efforts to deter the sale and purchase of spice, the officers warned that these are still widely available online.
To gasps of disbelief and with clear concern on their faces, most parents in the room had questions as to how to tell if the students had consumed such substances. And what the district does to prevent the sale of such items.
As per deterring the sale, the officers warned many of these products are easy to spot as the packages are colorful, many times sporting the latest movie or cartoon characters.
“If you see empty little bags or packages around the house, ask them,” Officer Flores said. “You will also be able to see the difference in your child’s behavior.”
But these could also be disguised in common treats or foods like baked goods or snacks, they warned.
“We tell the children not to buy and consume things that someone made at home because you never know what it has,” Officer Flores said.
Because of this, school officials said they banned homemade goods from being sold or brought to classrooms to share.
The policy went live about five years ago, they said, and parents and students immediately complained, but the policy was meant to keep everyone safe.
Officers said possession of spice in school is a higher penalty as this is usually a class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 or up to 180 days in jail. But if this is found on school grounds, the penalty increases to a class A misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $4,000 or up to one year in jail.
As per the famous vape pens, or e-cigarettes, the issue now is the use of these to not only smoke nicotine products, but THC oils to get the effects of marihuana without the smell of burning the actual herb.
Even though Mission doesn’t have the capabilities to test the oils used in these pens, the department can send the oil to get tested and an arrest warrant can be issued if THC is found, the officers said.
“McAllen PD already has the kits that take the sample and if these come out positive they will be arrested and there can face charges for possession of controlled substance which is a felony,” Officer Perez said.
This update could be one of many as parents requested more meetings and more time options for those that work and couldn’t attend today.
Marisol Chapa, a parent with three children in the district, said she asked for these meetings to be conducted in individual campuses and with a morning and afternoon option for those who couldn’t attend today.
“It’s important because they inform us and many times we as parents don’t know about these things,” Chapa said in Spanish. “A lot of the times we think that just happens in high school but no… we heard the officer talk about 10-year-old kids. And we might think its just marijuana, but we are shocked to learn about so many different things.”