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Stearley Heights Elementary School students sit with stuffed animals before music class Monday. The Department of Defense Dependents Schools, Okinawa, students brought their stuffed animals to school as part of the "Hugs Not Drugs" portion of Red Ribbon Week, an anti-drug awareness campaign.

Stearley Heights Elementary School students sit with stuffed animals before music class Monday. The Department of Defense Dependents Schools, Okinawa, students brought their stuffed animals to school as part of the "Hugs Not Drugs" portion of Red Ribbon Week, an anti-drug awareness campaign. (Will Morris / S&S)

Stearley Heights Elementary School students sit with stuffed animals before music class Monday. The Department of Defense Dependents Schools, Okinawa, students brought their stuffed animals to school as part of the "Hugs Not Drugs" portion of Red Ribbon Week, an anti-drug awareness campaign.

Stearley Heights Elementary School students sit with stuffed animals before music class Monday. The Department of Defense Dependents Schools, Okinawa, students brought their stuffed animals to school as part of the "Hugs Not Drugs" portion of Red Ribbon Week, an anti-drug awareness campaign. (Will Morris / S&S)

Two friends read with their stuffed animals in Jamie Hahn's multi-age class at Stearley Heights Elementary School.

Two friends read with their stuffed animals in Jamie Hahn's multi-age class at Stearley Heights Elementary School. (Will Morris / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — In an effort to educate children about the dangers of using illicit drugs, educators in Department of Defense Dependents Schools on Okinawa launched their annual Red Ribbon Campaign on Monday.

During the week, students will wear pajamas to school, bring stuffed animals to class and generally act strange to keep from doing something administrators say would be even stranger — drugs. They hope the message will stick with them throughout their lives.

“I think it’s all about making the kids aware,” said Stearley Heights Elementary School guidance counselor Astrid Rippeteau. “You really hope that students will make the right choice when they’re faced with a decision.”

On Monday, students at Stearley Heights Elementary School brought stuffed animals to school for the “Hugs Not Drugs” portion of Red Ribbon week.

At Killin Elementary School, students will wear red or crazy socks for “Sock It to Drugs Day.” They will also wear their shirts backwards to represent turning their backs on drugs.

The classes and activities are meant to be age appropriate, said Laura Stoller, spokeswoman for DODDS Okinawa. Some of the lower grades are focusing on drug safety.

“I was in a first-grade class, and they were doing simple things like ‘What are drugs?’ and not to take any (prescription) drugs unless their parents are present,” Stoller said.

On Friday, a Marine Corps dog team will conduct a demonstration at Kadena High School.

At Stearley Heights on Monday, Tranis Adams, 10, said he learned how some drugs are dangerous.

“Some drugs are bad for your body and can make you really sick,” he said.

Jason Warner, 10, said he had a friend who used drugs — cigarettes. But Jason talked with the friend, and he stopped. Most people start using drugs because of peer pressure and “because they think they’re cool,” he said.

Rippeteau and Stoller said the key to preventing drug abuse is communication. Parents need to know what is going on in their children’s lives, Stoller said.

Added Stoller: “Parents need to make sure they’re talking to their kids about the dangers of drugs.”

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