Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson spoke to St. Mary’s and Public High School students about the importance of making good decisions.

On Thursday, Aug. 31, Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson spoke before St. Mary’s and Public School students in their respective schools about the importance of making good decisions. He was asked to speak by Chief Matt Andres and Officer Shawn Bohnen, and he has offered to speak at other high schools in the county.

Hanson began his presentation with background information about his upbringing in Estherville, Iowa. He wanted students to understand that he, too, grew up in a small town with limited entertainment options on weekends. As a high school student, Hanson and his friends threw a party that involved drinking. Hanson left the party early because his girlfriend wanted to go home, and his parents woke him at 2 a.m. to inform him three of his friends had died and one more was in critical condition (the fourth boy died as well). Their decision to race while intoxicated resulted in a fatal car accident. About 30 years later, Hanson said he still gets choked up talking about it.

“Don’t do that to yourself, don’t do that to your friends, don’t do that to your parents,” he said.

Hanson also spoke on the dangers of drugs, particularly methamphetamine. To make his point, Hanson explained how the brain works in relation to meth. The first time a person smokes or injects meth, it’s the front decision-making part of the brain making the choice. By the third time, the person uses the back part of the brain, which is used for subconscious actions. Stressing the high likelihood of becoming addicted to meth, Hanson asked the kids, “If you wanted to go skydiving, and the instructor told you there’s a 90 percent chance the parachute won’t open, would you still jump?”

The last topic Hanson spoke about was technology. Hanson admitted that while he knows what it’s like to be a high schooler in a small town, he respects today’s teens, who have more access to each other with modern technology. He said if bullying happened at school when he was a teen, victims were at least safe at home. Now, cyber bullying is also an issue.

“It’s more critical now than ever to keep parents involved in your life,” he told students.

Sexting was another topic Hanson covered, stressing the consequences of asking for or sending nude pictures. He said photos from Minnesota have ended up in foreign countries, so they don’t stay in Sleepy Eye.

“I just don’t think parents are aware of how bad the problem is, and I don’t think kids realize how serious it is to engage in that activity; both the asking for pictures and the sending of pictures. I was hoping to at least let them know the seriousness of it and that they are committing felony crimes when they do those things,” Hanson said after the presentations.

Students had the option of asking Hanson questions once he finished speaking. Most of the questions related to drinking; one student asked, “Would a student get in trouble if they were not drinking but drove home students who were?” (The answer is no.) Regarding sexting, a student asked, “What if a person sends me a picture that I didn't ask for and don't want?” Hanson said, “The answer is tough. They need to either set their phone back to factory settings to get rid of it, or tell the police they got it unsolicited, which will cause an investigation.”

Although Hanson touched on some tough topics, he shed some light by telling students, “You have to want to do it, but you can be the generation that makes a difference.”