Thursday, October 27, 2011

A New, Dangerous Behavior

The following is the text of a column I was asked to write for this week's Bowie Blade-News... I am NOT including the link to the video, deliberately, as it becomes a "how-to" guide for the curious... A must read for parents and grandparents with Halloween approaching...

Halloween is Coming – Parents (and Kids) Beware

As I watched the television news story that had been sent to me by a professional youth worker within our Reform Movement, my mouth hung open in disbelief. How could something like this be going on without my having the slightest inkling? After all, I have a college freshman and a high school freshman of my own. I spend most of my time off during the summer at two different summer camps, work with our own youth groups, teach our B’nai Mitzvah and Confirmation students. If teenagers are doing it, watching it, talking about, I am usually aware of it.

But there, in front of me, was the latest method sweeping through our teenagers’ world – the latest way to get alcohol past unsuspecting adults. And if I was unaware, what were the odds that most of the rest of our area was as well?!

Turns out, the odds were pretty good, as a couple of quick phone calls confirmed. My phone call to Chief Nesky, at the Bowie Police, revealed that the police are not only aware of this new phenomenon, but planning their own efforts to alert the public to the danger. But calls to other community leaders, PTSO leaders, fellow clergy, other parents, even to a local newspaper editor demonstrated the need for us to bring this information into the public square.

So now, here I am, writing this column, at David Emanuel’s invitation and request, to catch us all up. With Halloween coming. Without creating an undue panic. And without allowing this warning to become a spur to our young people to experiment and learn how to make their own potentially toxic treats. Sure – no pressure there!

Especially since the newest receptacles are those cute, colorful, rubbery little snack animals and shapes. They started as Gummi Bears ™, and have morphed into 100s of shapes in dozens of colors – all designed to attract kids’ attention and interest. They are everywhere – and often sold loose in candy stores.

Turns out, they are pretty good at absorbing alcohol – they don’t melt or lose their shape. Unless you get suspicious and hold them up to your nose, you are unlikely to smell the alcohol. A couple of handfuls will get you pretty close to the legal limit for driving. And you, your child or grandchild might not even be aware that the candies they are scarfing down have been tampered with!

Fortunately, to spike them in bulk requires them to be repackaged afterwards or distributed individually and unwrapped, although I am sure we will hear eventually of truly malignant souls finding other ways to endanger us with these candies.

Best advice? Same as we give and get every Halloween. Only accept candy that is unopened, that comes from sources we know and trust. This year, be particularly careful of these gummis. If your child or a friend suddenly starts eating a lot more of them, ask them to share, and sniff before eating, to check for alcohol. And look for those telltale signs of substance abuse.

I could write more. But to do so would risk encouraging copy cats, or to make the danger seem greater than it probably is. But our community has lost too many of our young people already, some to deaths that could have been avoided. And therefore, keeping quiet was not an option either.

Sad to say – but necessary. Be safe and smart this Halloween season. And make sure that those you care about most are made aware of this latest behavioral trend.

--Rabbi Steve Weisman is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel, the Jewish congregation in Bowie. He serves on the faculty of the Union for Reform Judaism’s 6 Points Sports Academy and Camp Harlam, and has twice been awarded life membership for his work with the North American Federation of Temple Youth.

1 comment:

  1. well, I was unaware of this one! It totally makes sense though. Yet another thing to be aware of with the youth these days. Thanks for letting me know Steve.