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by Officer David S. MacArtney

There are many theories on how to combat the drug problem in the United States. One involves cutting off the drug flow at its source. Agencies attempt to destroy drug production crops in foreign countries and catch shipments into the United States. Another approach to fighting the drug problem is to reduce the demand in the United States. If there are fewer people using drugs, the flow into the country will reduce. This is where the DARE program fits into the war on drugs.

Over the years, the DARE program has become a household word but many people still don’t really know what it is. DARE is an acronym: DRUG-ABUSE-RESISTENCE-EDUCATION. It can be loosely defined by explaining each of the letters in reverse order. This is a program where police officers go into schools and teach (Education) kids ways to say no or avoid (Resistence) the use or misuse (Abuse) of (Drugs).

The program was first conceived in Los Angeles, California. In 1983, L.A.P.D. Chief Darryl Gates had a meeting with the Los Angeles Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Harry Handler. At that meeting, they discussed the war on drugs. They spoke of how Police are enforcing the laws that legislators made and that courts are putting offenders in jail, but nothing was being done to effectively prevent drug use.

The two agencies put together a task force to create a program. Research showed that the highest degree of success was involving programs which emphasized peer pressure, self-management skills(decision-making, values, and problem solving), and positive lifestyles. Compiling these ideas, the DARE program was born.

The long-term goals are:

- A reduction in the supply of controlled substances as a result of reduced demand.

- More positive identification with police.

- Improved decision-making skills in all life situations.

- An overall reduction in criminality.

The person who teaches DARE must be a member of a law enforcement organization. Before acceptance into the program, he or she must pass psychological testing, be interviewed by the training staff, and go through an eighty hour course.

The core curriculum is presented to fifth or sixth graders in seventeen, one hour sessions. This age was selected because kids are most likely to begin having exposure in life to the topics being presented, in middle school or just after.

The session topics vary. One lesson teaches children the basic drug facts and their harmful effects. Another lesson focuses on the consequences of using versus not using tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. Others discuss building self-esteem, ways to avoid violence and how the media influences people’s lives.

There is also curriculum for Kindergarten through fourth grades. These are shorter sessions that introduce safety tips such as how to handle strangers, safety in parks and discussing who is allowed to give drugs or medicines to children. These early sessions teach valuable life lessons and prepare the students for the core classes.

The topics presented in the DARE program help children understand and deal with the problems kids are facing in todays world. With the information learned through the DARE program,  children will be better prepared to make the right decision if they find themselves in a situation involving drugs or violence.

David S. MacArtney is a police officer with a suburban Chicago police department. He has been involved with the D.A.R.E program for over 8 years.

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