Guest speakers educate students on important issues facing teens


Staff photo

Lawyer J. Tom Morgan addresses the student body on Thursday, September 19. Morgan, who authored the book "Ignorance is No Defense," educated students on laws that may impact them as teenagers in Georgia.

Over the past three weeks, St. Pius X has welcomed two different speakers to talk to the student body about the dangers of vaping and the specifics of the legal system in Georgia.

On Friday September 6, the Chair of the Department of Counseling and Psychology at Georgia State University Dr. Brian J. Dew gave a presentation on the vaping epidemic in an effort to present objective facts and statistics about the dangerous habit that’s sweeping the nation.

For example, he informed the students that 20.8%, or 1 in 5 high schoolers, vape. Middle schoolers are vaping, too, with 10.9% of 8th graders using vapes that contain nicotine and 4.4% using ones that contain THC, according to a recent study he cited.

He went on to explain that nicotine is more dangerous for teenagers to consume than adults because the brain, specifically the frontal lobe, is not fully developed and therefore it’s easier for teens to get addicted.

“It’s training your brain to need or want that substance,” Dr. Dew said. “Nicotine is one of the most, if not the most, addictive substances that you can put in your body.”

This makes it that much easier for teens to get addicted to vaping. Furthermore, vapes contain up to 4 times the amount of nicotine found in cigarettes. 

“You are consuming more nicotine than you would if you smoke a cigarette,” Dr. Dew said.

He also emphasized that the takeaway from his talk was that “safer is not the same as safe,” referring to how Juul advertises their products as safer than cigarettes.

Two weeks later on Thursday, September 19, former Dekalb County DA J. Tom Morgan addressed the student body. Mr. Morgan, author of the book “Ignorance is No Defense,” is well known for representing teenagers who find themselves in trouble with the law. He touched on a wide variety of legal issues that teens could face such as drinking, drugs, or being in possession of inappropriate photos on your phone.

Morgan started out by advising students that whenever they are in a situation where another person is challenging them, or egging them on, to simply ignore them.

“The better choice is to turn the other cheek and walk away,” Morgan said.

Many teens, he explained, are ignorant of the law and aren’t aware of how a poor decision can land them in jail.

One such law is the Parties to a Crime Law, which states that everyone who is present during a crime and participating in some way or another, even if they are not the main perpetrator, is legally still responsible for the crime. 

Morgan gave the example of two high schoolers who attempted to rob their drug dealer and ultimately shot someone. He was representing the suspects and said their families were arguing over which teen pulled the trigger and that only one of the two boys should be charged with murder

But as Morgan explained to the families, “It doesn’t matter who fired the gun. They’re both guilty.”

Similar to the Parties to a Crime Law, Morgan also discussed the Equal Access Rule, which states that everybody in the vicinity of contraband is considered to be in possession of the illegal item.

The Parties to a Crime Law and the Equal Access Rule are enforced all over the country, but Morgan also discussed laws that are specific to Georgia, such as the Seven Deadly Sins Law.

The Seven Deadly Sins Law states that if a Georgia resident is 13 years of age or older and commits a crime that falls under one of the seven deadly sins, such as murder or aggravated robbery, they must be tried as an adult in court.

Once a Georgia resident turns 17, however, that teen must be tried as an adult. 

“There are only three states that mandate every 17 year old for every crime committed, and one is Georgia,” Morgan said. “It’s not fair because you have to compete with students from 47 other states for college and jobs.” 

Being tried as an adult means that you will have to disclose your conviction on every college and job application for the rest of your life. 

“If you think life is fair, it’s not. Somebody has been pulling your string,” Morgan stated. 

Morgan and Dr. Dew are two of many speakers throughout the year that St. Pius invites to educate students on a variety or real-world issues facing teenagers.

As Principal Steve Spellman said before Morgan began his presentation, “We try to bring programs that’ll enlighten you and inspire you to make the right decisions.”