Garrettsville – Don’t get caught with your head in the sand. Parents have often been accused of being out of touch or naive when it comes to their children’s (mis)behavior. Here’s your chance to either redeem yourself or to get a rude awakening.

Looks can be deceiving. Don’t be fooled. This is the message of “Hidden in Plain Sight,” a traveling exhibit which will be on display at James A. Garfield Elementary School gymnasium on Wednesday, May 15. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with a 90-minute presentation beginning at 7 p.m. The exhibit is open to adults only. There is no charge for admittance.

Designed by Bath and Copley Township Police Departments, the exhibit looks like the bedroom of the average teenager, scattered with nearly 150 ‘ordinary’ items all disguised to hide contraband — many recovered from youths serving in juvenile diversion programs, parents and police, and others purchased from head shops.

Items easily considered nothing but commonplace accessories can actually be signals that a teenager could be involved in risky or illegal activity. Items like magic markers, pop cans, water bottles, cabinets, paperback books, cold remedies and even a computer mouse may actually signal something more sinister, if you know what to look for. Increased concerns in drug culture these days include the proliferation of heroin and synthetic drugs like ‘bath salts’ and ‘spice,’ says James A. Garfield High School Principal Jennifer Mulhern.

Parents will be encouraged to explore and interact with display items which may provide clues that a teenager is involved in substance abuse, underage drinking, eating disorders, sexual activity or other dangerous behaviors. Participants will leave the program surprised, enlightened, educated and equipped, Mulhern anticipates.

Although Mulhern does not see a growing segment of the student population engaging in risky behaviors, she says, “There’s always a certain group of kids that you worry about. This exhibit provides a great opportunity for all parents to become more mindful of what their children are involved in and more aware of potential problems.”

Ultimately, the hope is for parents to gain the awareness and information required to intervene before potential problems become serious issues in their teens’ lives. Mulhern advises that parents of children as young as fifth or sixth grade should attend, “because they grow fast. I encourage everyone to come because these issues touch everyone’s lives.”

Bath/Copley PD Youth Director Marcie Mason created the program with help from Downing Enterprises to give parents a hands-on lesson on how to keep their kids safe and possibly prevent future arrests through heightened awareness. Parents hesitant to invade their children’s privacy are reminded that ‘snooping’ may not only help teens recognize the seriousness of their mistakes, but could actually save their life.

The traveling exhibit is touring northeast Ohio with prior engagements at schools in Hudson, Peninsula and Garfield Heights. Garrettsville Police Department will be involved in presenting the local exhibit. The JAG PTO has made a donation to help defray costs associated with presenting this program free to the public.