The “Hidden in Plain Sight” presentation by two Culpeper police officers drew a small but appreciative audience of parents to Orange County High School on Oct. 28. With a free dinner and childcare provided, the event sponsored by the Orange County Public Schools set out to educate parents on the ways children sometimes hide risky activities.

The presentation by Culpeper Master Police Officer Michael Grant and Officer Ashley Banks featured a teenager’s model bedroom set up on the OCHS auditorium stage. Copies of magazines geared toward drug users and images of rappers known for singing about drugs were giveaway clues. But how about the hairbrush, the tube of suntan lotion and the computer mouse? Were they what they appeared to be? Or could they be props hiding a teenager’s drug or alcohol use? These were the questions on the minds of moms and dads peering at the various objects displayed on the bed and inside the dresser drawers.

Tiffany Swim is the mother of a middle schooler whom she described as “a very good kid,” but she attended the presentation because she wanted to know the sorts of pressures her child will face. “Things are so different from when I was in school. It’s good to know what to be on the lookout for,” she said.

Chelsea Butcher, mother of three children, had similar reasons for going to the presentation, which was repeated the following night at Locust Grove Middle School. She said she attended “so I can make sure I’m with the times. Sixth grade seems to be the new ninth grade. It seems like kids are starting to experiment with things earlier than when I was growing up.”

Butcher is especially concerned by children’s dependence on the internet. “I remember when the internet became a thing. Now it’s everything to them.”

To that end, the Culpeper police officers told the audience that the internet offers teenagers a vast trove of items that look innocent but serve as flasks, pill grinders and more.

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