J-Team deputies start the conversation about drug awareness at Bridgeport Elementary

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In a large room sat more than 100 fifth and sixth graders from Bridgeport Elementary School, all beaming and eager to hear the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Juvenile Response Team on the topic of drug awareness.

Three J-Team MPs presented on Thursday morning on drug awareness, the potential risks of drug use and the dangers of fentanyl. Teachers and school staff sat alongside their students as the MPs spoke and answered questions after their presentation.

“Drugs have been around for a very long time,” MP Mario Acosta said. “It’s one of those battles that we do our best to stop. However, it is a problem that, unfortunately, we anticipate will remain for a long time.

“That’s why we’re doing this to educate you, give you all the information and get things done.”

The drug awareness assembly was sparked after a student brought marijuana-infused candy to school and shared it with other students, according to district staff. In a statement to the Saugus District community, district staff reassured that no students were harmed and that they are investigating.

The investigation by Bridgeport staff with the assistance of law enforcement considered the incident an isolated incident, according to the district statement. District staff decided it was best to take a moment to educate and raise awareness.

“There’s a lot of curiosity out there and in light of the recent incident that happened here, I think it brought that curiosity and those questions to the fore,” Principal Kimberly Humphries said.

“I am happy that we are able to provide this opportunity, so that our children can hear the information from the experts. If we can equip our children with information, the better off they will be later in life.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Deputies Marco Acosta, Michael Grijalva and Diego Andrade, members of the Juvenile Response Team, discuss the dangers of drugs and answer questions from students at Bridgeport Elementary School Thursday morning. Jose Herrera/The Signal

School staff will also be hosting other drug awareness events for Red Ribbon Week in October, Humphries added. There is a way to discuss issues like drugs in an age-appropriate way, she added.

Drug Free Youth in Santa Clarita Valley, an organization focused on educating and empowering students to make good choices, will visit Saugus District campuses as part of its efforts in October, according to district staff.

MPs Acosta, Diego Andrade and Michael Grijalva spoke about marijuana, fentanyl, over-the-counter drugs, how drugs can affect people differently, and the difference between medically prescribed drug use and the volatile and dangerous use of drugs manufactured by criminals.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Deputies Marco Acosta, Michael Grijalva and Diego Andrade show a class at Bridgeport Elementary School the different ways someone might try to give another person drugs. Deputies, members of the SCV Sheriff’s Station Juvenile Intervention Team, came to chat with students at a drug awareness assembly on Thursday morning. Jose Herrera/The Signal

Andrade said he had been an MP for about 17½ years and a year as a J-Team member. He’s always had an interest in the narcotics side of law enforcement, whether it’s helping people recover and figuring out why someone started using drugs or enforce the law and arrest criminals who harm vulnerable people.

“Overdoses are a problem right now, not just here in Santa Clarita, but all over the country,” Andrade said. “I have young children myself and it’s personal to me.”

Erin Bulgia, a sixth-grade student at Bridgeport Elementary School, participated in the assembly with her class. She said she had been a student at Bridgeport Elementary School all her “life” and felt she could trust her teachers.

“I like it because it was informative, and it helped me feel more comfortable since I have more knowledge,” Bulgia said. “I learned a few other drugs and ways to monitor them.”

At the end of the presentation, many students had follow-up questions.

“They are intrigued by it. A lot of them seem to know a lot about what’s out there, which is kind of surprising,” Andrade said. “They know what’s going on. It’s just a matter of educating them more and telling them what to watch out for.

Ninette Gharibian, a certified marriage and family therapist for the district, said the assembly showed that children listen, are curious and want to learn.

“The idea is that the more things they talk about, the more educated they are and the better they understand,” Gharibian said. “Then they are able to make safer and healthier decisions for themselves.”

“If you don’t know how to start the conversation, reach out to someone who might be able to help, like within the school, like me, or someone in the community who can help you,” he said. she added.

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