Originally created 02/11/00

Deputies' skits have anti-crime themes

BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Their badges were replaced by gang colors for a morning.

School resource officers at the Beaufort County Sheriff's Department put aside their usual duties Wednesday to entertain and enlighten a group of Hilton Head Middle School pupils.

Their mission: to make pupils think twice about dangerous decisions involving violence, alcohol and date-rape drugs. Their weapons: two skits mixing humor, reality and consequences.

"If we can get through to a few of them, it's worth it," said Fransetta Gadson, one of eight deputies who work in Beaufort County schools and starred in Bullets Without Names and Party Time.

In the first skit, some deputies played self-proclaimed "gang-bangers" involved in a rumble with jocks. As they clash in a hallway lined with lockers, a shot rings out and the curtain falls.

Afterward, each character comes out and shares his dreams and what he will miss if he dies. All proclaim their lives to be changed forever.

In the second skit, two girls sip beer with the jocks. One accepts a drink from a boy who mixes it with a date-rape drug and calls it his love potion. Her friend finds her later in an alley outside.

Meanwhile, the jocks meet their fate on a deserted highway when the football player at the wheel loses control after a few too many drinks.

Despite the occasional laughs that rang out as the SRO Players boogied at a party, the messages they sent were serious.

The school resource officers began developing the skits during the summer and made their own scripts, props and costumes.

Sheriff P.J. Tanner said he was proud as he watched the performance for the first time Wednesday. The skits had been performed at Robert Smalls and Lady's Island middle schools and will be repeated at other middle schools.

Sheriff Tanner said he wanted to do something that addresses issues children will face and felt a localized program would get the message across better than a national campaign created somewhere else.

"All we did is let them use their imagination," he said after congratulating the school officers on a job well done. "They know these kids. They did a great job."

Deputy Mike Jennings, a school resource officer at Hilton Head Middle School, said he knows almost every child at the school. But he said he hopes the performance will make them even more comfortable about approaching him with problems.

Deputy Gadson agrees. Since the performance at Robert Smalls Middle School, where she works, she's already noticed a change, she said.

"I've had kids who haven't spoken to me all year who stopped me to say they enjoyed the play," she said.

And although most might not have had to deal with issues such as drunken-driving yet, she said she hopes the play sends a reminder of the consequences when they do.


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