On Tuesday, a child at Roosevelt Elementary found a half buried syringe on the playground during recess. The district took advantage of the teacher in-service day, which was a day off for kids, to have workers use rakes and a front-end loader to sort through the wood chips – presumably to check for additional needles. While it would be nice to write this off as an isolated incident, the reality is that Olympia is under siege by narcotics use, narcotics related crime, and hazardous drug waste. It’s easy to spot the many bright orange syringe endcaps around the outskirts of Roosevelt and much of downtown Olympia.
This week, tweets from the Olympia Police Department encourage parents using Bigelow Park (near Roosevelt Elementary) to watch for narcotics use and a map shows the many burglaries in the vicinity. Parents who frequent Olympia’s parks know the drill: 1) Scan the grounds for syringes 2) Keep an eye out for strange behavior while playing on the playground. Schools need to be proactive as well.
Madison Elementary took the lead last year to control this problem on the grounds and educate their students on the issue. They worked with Thurston County Health to develop age-appropriate messaging to teach kids what to do if they spot a syringe or something that “doesn’t belong” on the playground. The “Stop. Don’t Touch! Get an Adult.” campaign is perfect for that age group. In spite of these efforts, on the first day of school, I snapped some pictures of my kiddo, gave him a hug, and then noticed an end cap and the cotton filters used for shooting heroin in the shrubbery.
The breadth and severity of the problem is having serious impacts on families in Olympia. The weight of this problem can’t fall solely on a few elementary schools. We need our state and local leaders to step up.