December 1, 2000

Sweetwater District Program Attracts National Attention

A pilot program that creates a Culture of Lawfulness and changes student attitudes toward trans-border crime and corruption has attracted the attention of international law enforcement officials.

National attention: Rand Beers, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, (R) speaks to Castle Park High students (L-R) Nain Noriega and Jeneeca Ellis as part of an assembly on the Culture of Lawfulness. Teacher Carmen Hernandez is seated.

Rand Beers, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, visited Castle Park High School recently to congratulate Sweetwater district students for embracing such a significant project.

"Because of its location on the international border, the Sweet-water district is positioned to make a real impact on changing students' attitudes towards crime," Beers said during an assembly of 300 Castle Park students.

"I am very impressed with this program and hope that we can get other schools across the country to adopt it," Beers said.

Castle Park High is one of four schools in the Sweetwater district—and the only district in the nation—to teach the Culture of Lawfulness program. The other Sweetwater schools implementing the program are Southwest Junior, Southwest High and Montgomery High. The semester-long curriculum is aimed at ninth graders and includes the rationale for having rules and laws in a society. Students hear guest speakers who talk about crime and corruption and how to resist involvement.

Board President Greg San-doval—who has been a great advocate of the program—congratulated the students for the difference they are making.

"You have begun something very special here," Sandoval told students at the assembly. "Each year you make a greater impact and move us all closer to a culture of lawfulness."

The program has shown measurable results in boosting community intolerance to criminal activities. The program began in Palermo, Sicily, where citizens formed an anti-Mafia movement.

The Sweetwater district has taken advantage of its proximity to the border to create a binational program with schools in Tijuana. Teachers from both sides of the border have attended training workshops and have written the curriculum for the program.

It was this program and its binational cooperation that attracted Beers to visit schools on both sides of the border. During his recent visit, Beers attended student assemblies at Castle Park High and General Belisario Dominguez School in Tijuana. Beers was joined by education and law enforcement officials from both sides of the border.

Castle Park teacher Carmen Hernandez—who piloted the project—was proud to show the skills students have gained as a result of the program.

"Our students create their own real-life scenarios during role-playing exercises," Hernandez said. "And then we brainstorm about realistic solutions. This is the third year I have been teaching the program, and I have seen a real difference in our student culture," Hernandez said.

Chris Rodriguez, a Castle Park High junior, was a student in Hernandez' first Culture class, and he can attest to the success of the program.

"I used to think that it would be a pretty cool world if there were no laws," Rodriguez said. "Then I realized the world would be a very scary place."

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