Construction is wrapping up at Madison Elementary School and soon the kids will be returning home to the Madison campus on Legion Ave. Transitions can be rough with kids. However, rather than worrying about these issues, I have been worried about something much bigger – the dirty drug syringes I spotted on Madison’s playground over the summer.
I asked my husband to take a look around a few days ago and as expected, he found this huge uncapped syringe – right beside the swings. I never thought that I would have had to talk to my kids at such a young age about drugs, but it has been imperative to explain the situation in depth to my 5 year old:
- What syringes look like
- What syringes are used for
- Why dirty syringes are unsafe
- What to do if you find a syringe
- Common places to use caution and watch out for syringes
It has been an ongoing conversation about heroin and what is happening in our city right now. We spend at least an hour per day outdoors in the neighborhood, and so it has been impossible for us to avoid. Our son is really concerned and wants to know what we can do to stop this problem. He is depending on me and the other adults in the community for his protection and to solve this problem. No child wants to have dirty needles on the school playground. I don’t think their parents do either.
As someone who has worked in environmental and public health my entire career, I can confidently say that communities get the level of environmental and public health protection that they expect. When will Olympia stand up to the heroin epidemic and the thousands of stray syringes that are endangering the entire community and say “This is unacceptable!” When?
I sent a letter to the principal – a letter no parent of a preschooler should ever have to send. In facing the reality of my child attending a school in an area heavily impacted by IV drug use, I made a few requests. I asked that Madison develop a site-specific plan to protect students from accidental needle pokes on campus. Additionally, I asked that the school educate students specifically about syringes and what to do if found, as well as build awareness for the drug detritus en route to and from school.
Again, our kids need us to stand up to solve this problem. Will you?