Rural America is filled with images of 4-H kids showing purple-ribbon winning steers, high school heroes scoring touchdowns, and lazy days at the lake. There’s a seamy side, though, that pervades the countryside.
Methamphetamine ravages rural areas. “It’s the biggest drug problem we have,” says Dale Elsen, who has been Marshall County, South Dakota, sheriff since 1983.
Other cases Elsen encounters are just plain evil. Last October, Marshall County was rocked by a report of five residents charged with multiple sexual abuse charges, including rape and possessing, manufacturing, or distributing child pornography.
So how can rural families keep their children on the right path?
One advantage small schools have is that they often need students in order to make school activities go. This keeps students busy and out of trouble while giving them a sense of belonging, says Monte Nipp, superintendent of Langford Area Public School in Langford, South Dakota.
“Diane Hoines (play director and a retired teacher) makes it her goal to have every senior in the senior class play,” Nipp says. “She doesn’t care if you can’t sing, act, or dance, she will find a place for you.”