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Published: Tuesday, 5/25/2010

In court, Maumee students hear about choices

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
St. Joseph School physical education teacher Cary Weaver signs third grader Belle Bruno's T-shirt while her classmate, Mason Orians, looks on before the start of a race as part Positive Addiction Week. St. Joseph School physical education teacher Cary Weaver signs third grader Belle Bruno's T-shirt while her classmate, Mason Orians, looks on before the start of a race as part Positive Addiction Week.
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As Paul Schmidt was led away to begin serving 10 days in jail, the crowded courtroom was quiet.

Dozens of St. Joseph School students, who were seated in the Maumee Municipal Court, had been watching closely and listening intently to proceedings as Acting Judge Francis Frey sentenced Mr. Schmidt, who was convicted for the fourth time of driving under the influence.

The students said little during the morning in traffic court, but it was obvious from the side glances to their classmates and from the shifting in their seats and the shuffling of feet that the message was getting through, loud and clear: you misbehave, and there is a price to pay.

And speaking of price, there was some sticker shock as students heard about defendants who owed hundreds of dollars in back fines and court costs.

St. Joseph students spent time in the municipal court as part of activities during Positive Addiction Week at the school in Maumee.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the event, said Mary Anne Steinbaugh of Monclova Township, a middle-school social studies teacher who has participated in the activities each year since the event started.

Before students left the courtroom, Judge Frey talked with them about what had happened when Mr. Schmidt made the decision to drink and then drive.

Mr. Schmidt, 53, of Toledo had been under stress, such as from retiring from his job and from dealing with the death of his mother, but it wasn't an excuse, his lawyer Kenneth Walz had told Judge Frey.

Since his arrest in October, 2009 - a time factor showing students that court cases aren't typically wrapped up neatly in an hour (think Law & Order) - Mr. Schmidt has sought treatment and is attending AA meetings, Mr. Walz told the court.

Before the sentencing, Judge Frey said he appreciated that Mr. Schmidt on his own sought help and counseling, but said the defendant knows his behavior had consequences.

Mr. Schmidt was sentenced to 180 days in jail, with 120 days suspended. He'll serve 10 days in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio and was ordered to pay $513.50 in fine and court costs.

Later, Judge Frey told the students that he doesn't mean to make an example of the defendant, but the case showed penalties are imposed for such behavior.

"He's going to jail. He had other plans for his life," the judge told the students.

When Judge Frey asked students about their reaction to what they had seen during the court session during which several cases were heard, eighth-grader Nicholas Labardee, 13, of Waterville, said he thought there would be more DUI cases. Two were heard that morning, but sometimes six or eight are heard in one day, Judge Frey said.

Kristin Blochowski, chairman of the Positive Addiction Week, said the cases provided students with a reminder about making wise choices in life. Making the right choices - such as don't drink or do drugs - is a key theme for Positive Addiction Week, several students and teachers said.

During the week, students learn how to stay focused on positive behavior, and how to shut the door on negative behavior, Cathy Noble of Toledo, a middle school teacher at St. Joseph, said. Positive Addiction Week helps instill positive values, she said.

Activities, programs, and events were held on topics such as staying drug, alcohol, and tobacco free; volunteering and living a life of purpose; setting goals and making good choices, and using positive behavior to resist peer pressure.

The week teaches students not to give in to peer pressure, seventh-grade student Chandler Dippman, 12, of Waterville, said.

Sisters Sydney Huffman, 12, and Madison Huffman, 13, of Perrysburg who attend St. Joseph, said they do their best to be positive role models for each other.

They and Chandler agreed students should focus on positive activities, including playing sports, hanging out with friends, spending time with adults who are good role models, and going to church.

Positive Addiction Week provides an opportunity for students to learn that "drugs are not good for you. It helps get people away from them," said Sydney, a sixth-grade student.

Many students on Friday were wearing sapphire blue shirts designed with a "Don't Melt Under Pressure" message created by Amal Rachidi, an eighth-grade student who won a T-shirt design contest.

A two-mile race, a pizza and salad lunch, and an awards ceremony concluded the week's activities on a positive note.



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