PRC hosts scared straight speech

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pearl River Central High School hosted an assembly in February to discuss sex, substance abuse, sexual abuse, Internet safety, bullying and the influence of media and violence on students.

The hour-long assembly, called “True Lies,” was hosted by Phil Chalmers. Chalmers travels the country speaking with students and police officers as an authority on juvenile homicide and mass murder.

School Resource Officer Brandon Herrin said he first met Chalmers during a conference in Biloxi. After speaking to him and viewing Chalmers’ “True Lies” DVD, he and Debra McCormick, a co-sponsor of the Campus Security Council, decided the event would be beneficial to students.

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Chalmers said he understands this generation is desensitized and violent and that through his experience interviewing and studying teenage killers, he has learned how to get through to them.

Pearl River Central High School student Abby Carter said the assembly didn’t involve Chalmers lecturing the students, instead the presentation was engaging. She said students were allowed to ask questions about any topic.

“It was one of the first ones I’d seen that talked about real life situations,” Carter said.

The assembly was for seventh through 12th graders, McCormick said.

Herrin said Chalmers used real life situations to illustrate his point.

Chalmers didn’t talk about scenarios. Instead, he used crime scene photos of murders and suicides and mug shots of substance abusers that showed their physical deterioration over time, Herrin said.

Carter said it’s sometimes difficult to get teenagers to understand the topics Chalmers touched on. She said the techniques Chalmers used made the situations real, understandable and easier to grasp than typical discussions on the topics.

“It made it real for students,” Carter said.

Both Herrin and McCormick said they received positive response from the students after the assembly.

Chalmers said he grew up in an unstable home and decided that if he could survive, he could help other children going through the same thing.

According to a release from McCormick, Chalmers said at the assembly, “Some of you guys have been molested, abused, spit on, stepped on, bullied. Some of you don’t think you have value, but you do. You never lose your value.”

Chalmers encourages parents, school administrators and others working with teenagers to visit his website at to learn about the warning signs of violence and self-harm or to contact him for a speaking engagement.

“We’re trying to make a difference and we’re trying to make an impact,” Chalmers said.

This isn’t the first time Pearl River Central High School has used a different approach to help students understand the impact of their decisions.

Last year, the school recreated a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The scene included staged rescue efforts from Carriere Volunteer Fire Department, AAA Ambulance, Mississippi Highway Patrol and a helicopter emergency medical evacuation team, Herrin said.

Last year’s recreation was held before prom for juniors and seniors to educate them on the dangers of drinking and driving, McCormick said.