Students at Maple Grove Junior/ Senior High School are going to get a stern talking to next month.
Robert Stutman, who for 25 years held the position of director of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office, will be spending the day on Oct. 4, talking with students in sixth through 12th grades about an issue that according to Stutman is currently plaguing American adolescents - drug use, and mainly prescription drug use.
"Deaths and overdoses on pharmaceutical drugs is higher than all other drugs combined this year," Stutman said. "And its kids using this stuff - often good kids - and when I talk with them about it and ask them why they're taking drugs like oxycontin, which in my opinion is one of the most dangerous drugs on the market today, they say the same thing - 'It came from a doctor. It's safe."
For several years since retiring from the DEA, Stutman has been traveling the country giving more than 100 presentations a year at everywhere from schools to businesses.
On Oct. 4, Stutman will begin the day with an assembly and then break into voluntarily attended group discussions with students, until later meeting with the district's administrative team and teachers, talking about the main issues he has gathered that exist within the district.
He then assists districts in formulating a support system to tackle those specific issues and also mandates follow-ups with districts to see how they are coming along in the following years.
"I'm just the start of what a community can do in the long term," Stutman said. "And if god for bid two or three years from now a kid overdoses in the area, can a community say it came together and tried its best to prevent it? Or do you say we didn't try hard enough? Incidents are always going to occur but positive differences can be made when a community shares the collective guilt."
Stutman has received rave reviews on his visits over the years from individuals like CBS News anchor Dan Rather, who called him "one of our nation's heroes," and he has made hundreds of television appearances including on The Today Show and Oprah.
Before retiring from the DEA, he was considered by New York Magazine as "the most famous drug narc in America," and for a period of time Stutman was at the top of the Columbian Drug Cartel's assassination list.
What makes his presentations so effective today, Stutman said, is his blunt and honest attitude coupled with conversations with students and staff "that aren't preachy."
"I know students are walking in saying 'Some guy's gonna tell us why drugs are bad and why drugs will kill us," he said, "and I try to convince them I've lived a life teaching myself more than they could ever know, and I'm very up front with them. I want to learn from these kids and see the town through their eyes, and they react to that in very open ways."
At 7 p.m. Oct. 4 in the Maple Grove auditorium, parents, teachers and administrators from all over the community are invited to participate in a conversation with Stutman in which he will share what he has learned from students that day, and hopefully open people's eyes to the reality students are living in that many parents and school staff are not aware of.
"That night we'll talk about what is happening in the country in general, which most parents have no clue about," he said. "Then we'll talk about what your kids said in this town are into- what's popular, what kids' attitude is about drugs and also how kids are learning about them. A lot of times kids are getting this stuff directly from their parents medicine cabinet and parents don't think twice about leaving it there, because they have no clue kids are using this stuff to get high."
The presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.thestutmangroup.com or contact Julie Verdonik, Bemus Point Central School District director of special education, at 386-4932.