A school program designed to teach children to “just say no” to drugs has fallen victim to the proverbial chopping block in some Oklahoma communities, but has garnered supporters elsewhere.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education, more commonly known as DARE, has received mixed reviews locally and nationally.
Personal, scientific views differ
DARE recently almost was cut from the Oklahoma City’s budget. The City Council kept it alive.
Ann Simank said she and other council members have received letters from teachers and principals telling them the program works.
“These people work with kids every day, and I have to take their word for it. ... When you see a result in any child — when they can make a difference in their life and stay off of drugs and alcohol and stick with their education —we’ve got to consider that,” Simank said.
But researchers nationwide have said the program is ineffective.
DARE has received low marks from the U.S. General Accountability Office and the U.S. Department of Education, which does not allow federal funds to be spent on the program.
And the last U.S. Surgeon General’s report on youth violence said the program does not work at deterring substance abuse.
“Evidence on the effects of the traditional DARE curriculum ... shows that children who participate are as likely to use drugs as those who do not participate,” according to the report.
‘One of the best things’
On the other hand, the same surgeon general’s report noted that DARE does have a positive effect on attitudes toward police. And although Norman has not had a DARE program in several years, officer Jennifer Newell said former DARE officers and their colleagues noticed that impact.
“We do believe that one of the best things that came out of it was that positive relationship with the kids,” said Newell, the Norman Police Department’s community relations officer.
The DARE officers worked much the same way as school resource officers, she said, in that children interacted with police officers on a day-to-day basis, and not because they were in trouble.
“You don’t have to make them your friend, but they do learn to trust you. They see you as more of a person than as the guy who gave their mother a ticket,” she said.
And then she added: “I honestly don’t think it affected drug use among kids.”
Still, Simank said DARE seems to be paying off in Oklahoma City.
“Maybe it depends on how your program is administered and how your city is doing it,” she said.
DARE at a glance
* When did it start? In 1983 in Los Angeles.
* How popular is it? DARE programs are in 75 percent of U.S. school districts and more than 40 other countries. More than 50,000 law enforcement officers are trained to teach the curriculum.
* How does it work? Police officers lead classroom lessons about resisting peer pressure and living drug-free lives.
* Who funds it? The nonprofit organization DARE America. Less than 1 percent of funding comes from federal sources. Educational materials cost $12 per child.
Source: Drug Abuse Resistance Education
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