This year’s Prom Promise, sponsored by the JCHS Youth Resource Center, was a little different than those held in the past. Instead of a mock car wreck resulting from driving while under the influencer of alcohol or drugs or texting, students, staff and a large number within our community came together to perform a mock scenario involving drug use at a prom after-party. Students learned the consequences of making bad decisions as a friend died from an overdose at the party. The mock scenario communicated just how innocently such a horrible event can occur. The kids at the party were all good kids. No one meant for anything bad to happen. However, it only take one mistake. After the mock heroin overdose occurred Sheriff Paul Hays and a number of emergency first responders took the stage to show the students what would happen in real life. As Sheriff Hays talked with the student (played by Kennith Clements) that brought the drugs to the party he said, “It just takes one time. This can destroy lives. One of your friends has died and now you are going to jail charged with murder. Everybody loses.”. After the mock investigation and the student confessed to bringing the drugs to the party he was charged with 4 counts of wanton endangerment and 1 count of murder. The scene shifted to Sheriff Hays arresting the drug dealer that supplied the heroin and charging him with Trafficking in controlled substances, wanton endangerment, and murder. Deputy Daniel Isaacs brought K-9 Gina in to the scene with the drug dealer to demonstrate how efficient the drug dog is in finding illegal drugs.
The next scene was a court trial. Judge Allen B. Roberts along with County Attorney Ross Murray and Public Defender Brian Barker volunteered to help participate and facilitate this scene. Their presence gave this scene a very realistic feel and they performed wonderfully. Defense Attorney Brian Barker laid out his defense for the students that were charged. Those that took the drugs did so voluntarily. There was no premeditation to inflict harm. It was a simple lapse in judgement. Prosecuting Attorney Ross Murray laid out the case for the Commonwealth and the prosecution. Someone must speak for the dead and injured. Three students almost died and were brought back with the use of Narcan. One student died. The drugs were purchased from a known drug dealer that law enforcement was closely watching. The Mother of the student that brought the drugs had said she spoke with him about the dangers of drug use. Both young men had other friends that had previously died from overdoses. Both, obviously, knew the dangers. These young men poisoned a girl and she died. They are culpable under the law. Both should be found guilty.
The verdict was delivered after jury deliberation. The drug dealer was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years. The student who brought the drugs to the party was found guilty of reckless homicide and sentenced to 5 years in prison with no consideration for parole. The Mother of the deceased student spoke prior to the sentencing and demonstrated to the students that lives are forever changed for the family of those harmed by illegal drug use.
After the scene was concluded, Jailer Brian Gabbard spoke. “No one has answers. There are no answers. Just sadness for everyone. For the families, for the friends, for the young person that died. For the young persons that were arrested and sent to prison. There is just sadness. Bad decisions impact everybody’s lives.” State Representative Robert Goforth also spoke about his drug prevention “Darrius”. The program is named after a veteran that became addicted to opioid painkillers after being injured in the line of duty. He went to rehab and became sober but relapsed and died. Rep. Goforth informed the students that Kentucky leads the nation in overdose deaths. His message was, “Be safe. Make responsible decisions. It only takes one time to become addicted or to overdose and die.”
At the end of the program, Principal Brian Harris spoke. He reached out to the students and in a moment of great candor admitted that people on both sides of his own family are struggling with addiction every day. “You may think that teachers don’t understand but we do. We have close friends and family members that struggle with these same decisions and consequences all the time. I want everyone to have fun but please do not drink and drive. Being a high school student is a fun time for teenagers, but they must be aware that it only takes one bad decision to forever change their life. Please be safe. It just takes one bad decision.”
Principal Harris wanted to thank all those that participated. The participation by our community made this one of the more memorable and effective Prom Promises! Those that participated included (but not limited to): Staff - Mrs. Medlock, Mrs. Gabbard, and Mrs. Martinez, State Representative Robert Goforth, District Judge Allen B. Roberts, Jennifer Truett, County Attorney Ross Murray, Public Defender Brian Barker, CDW Rosalie Mathis, Mayor John Tompkins, Jackson County Sheriffs Office (K-9 Unit Gina, Sheriff Paul Hays, Daniel Isaacs), School Resource Officer Keith Berry, City Of McKee Police
Jonathon Sizemore, Jackson County Court Security Officers (Eric Hays, Jacob Rodgers), Jackson County Detention Center (Jailer Brian Gabbard, Mitchell Baker), Jackson County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) (Craig Bowles, Jody Britton, Rusty Barger, Angela Day, Elizabeth Williams, Oscar McQueen, Meranda McQueen, Matt Singleton, Samantha Johnson, & Shelby Bryant), Lakes Funeral Home (Lonnie Hacker & Connor Hammons) Pond Creek Fire Department (Larry Bowling, Jewell Bowles, John Childers), Gray Hawk Fire Department (Cleon Bingham), City of McKee Fire Department (Chris Gay), Sand Gap Fire Department (Ethan Van Winkle), and PRTC (Mark Sulfridge). Jamie Strong, Emergency Management Director also wanted to thank special guests: Jerry Rains, KYEM Area 09 Regional Response Manager, Summer Lewis, Behavioral Health Program Director/ Substance Abuse Counselor, and Querida Gyimah, Harm Reduction Coordinator, Cumberland Valley District Health Department.