NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven public schools start educating students about drug prevention in kindergarten. Until they graduate, students are taught why drugs are bad for you. But some are saying that is not enough.

Raymond Jackson works for City Hall but in his free time, he volunteers for the LEAD program at King/Robinson Magnet School. He talks to kids about what they are dealing with day-to-day. He was shocked to hear some of the things kids have seen, some as young as 12 years old.

“You cannot sugar coat anything to them anymore. They’ll tell you something you’re surprised to hear come out of a 12- or 13-year-old’s mouth. When they talk to you, they share they know about drugs, they saw somebody get shot or they handled a gun,” Jackson said. “You’d be surprised people 17 and 18 years old are shooting needles now. That’s not what I want for any kid.”

On Thursday, a student at James Hillhouse High School brought edibles to school and shared it with four other students. Those kids became sick and were taken to the hospital. The district believes the edibles were infused with an illegal substance. 

Jackson worries students will be exposed to drugs more often as pot products become more accessible.

“If something happens on the street at night, I’ll feel guilty. I feel guilty in my heart. I might not even know the kid, but it hurts me.”

He said students need programs where they can talk freely about challenges they face without judgement. Mentoring, in addition to the education they receive in schools, will help keep kids on the right path.

The NHPS Health Education in Drug and Drug Prevention Program is taught from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Students from K-6 learn content and skills to understand prescription and over-the-counter drugs, household products that can be dangerous, avoid poison, harmful chemicals in tobacco and applying skills to avoid secondhand smoke.

At the 7th and 8th grade levels, students are taught the dangers of drugs like tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and steroid use. Over-the-counter, prescription and sports supplement misuse are also explored. Middle school also explores dependency, addiction, internal and external influences, and social norms. 7th and 8th graders learn how to classify stimulant and depressant drugs and practice refusal skills.

Students from grades 9-12 have their health-based skills reinforced with understanding the short-term and long-term effects of drug use.

New Haven Public Schools has resources and information for students and their families who might be dealing with substance abuse.