Pr. George’s pupils get-and give-a lesson on drugs

September 15, 1988

The buses were late, so Sheila Milbourne had a few extra minutes to prepare her sixth-grade class at Seat Pleasant Elementary School for the antidrug rally.

“Let’s review a little drug vocabulary,” Milbourne said. “Can you name some drugs for me?”

The class sat silent.

“There’s heroin. How about others?” Milbourne prompted.

The hands shot up.

“Cocaine, marijuana, PCP,” came the answers, precise and formal.

The lesson, considering what these children see in their neighborhoods every day, hardly seemed necessary.

“Up the street in the Pleasant Homes, they got the rocks {crack} and the coke. The Jamaicans, they got the pot,” said Rudolph Norris, a sixth grader who lives a block from the Pleasant Homes apartments in Seat Pleasant. “Sometimes they say, `You want a free sample?’ but I just say no.”

Rudolph and the other pupils at Seat Pleasant Elementary were among 15,000 Prince George’s County fifth- and sixth-grade pupils taken to the Capital Centre yesterday for what was billed as the largest “Say No to Drugs Rally” in the country. Sponsored by the Washington Bullets and the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce, the event was an attempt by county and school officials to counteract a burgeoning drug problem.

“I’ve been told that we in Prince George’s County have one of the most serious drug problems in the nation,” said School Superintendent John A. Murphy.

It would be difficult to find the pupil in Milbourne’s sixth-grade class who has not seen a drug deal being made. Most of the pupils live in some of the county’s toughest neighborhoods, where open-air drug markets are as common as convenience stores.

Still, the sixth-grade pupils at Seat Pleasant are more fortunate than most. As part of an “I Have A Dream” program, they have been promised a college education if they finish high school.

Milbourne frequently reminds her pupils that they are “dreamers,” but she admits that many do not fully understand the opportunity they have been given.

“How do you tell a hustler to just say no when he’s making $1,000 a day?” asked Tiffany Alston, 11.

Where drugs are concerned, the children know what sells, where and for how much. The street names for the drugs-crack, rock, eight ball, cane, love boat-are more familiar to them than the names of the continents or oceans.

Gregory Brown, 11, of Capitol Heights, knew a lot about love boat, a marijuana-PCP concoction. “You take a white piece of paper and roll it and then you do crazy stuff, like bump into walls, and embarrass yourself,” Gregory said.

Despite such pressures at home, the pupils at Seat Pleasant so far seem to be getting the message. All of the pupils interviewed said that they would not use drugs, and many said that they were afraid of the dealers.

At the Capital Centre, the 15,000 10- and 11-year-olds bopped to the beat of a jazzed-up U.S. Air Force band and cheered when Bullets coach Wes Unseld promised free game tickets to the first 12 schools that return signed pledges to remain drug-free.

Still, on the way out of the arena, as pupils fought over pens for autographs, it was difficult to tell what effect the rally had.

“It was all right, I guess,” Tiffany Alston said, “but I’d rather had tickets to the Anita Baker show.”

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