Minneapolis Schools Drop Out of DARE Program

Minneapolis Schools Drop Out of DARE Program
Posted by FoM on November 18, 1999 at 12:17:31 PT
Anne O'Connor, Star Tribune
Source: Star Tribune
Minneapolis schools will DARE no longer. After 11 years, the district and the Police Department are pulling the plug on the controversial Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in city schools. Current classes will end by Jan. 31. 
The program has been popular with students and parents, although its effectiveness has been questioned for years. On Wednesday, as parents heard the news, some were angry that there was no parent representative on the committee that decided to end the program.The district has been using the program for fifth-graders. DARE brings police officers into classes to teach about the dangers of drinking and chemical use.Instead, district officials say, kindergartners through seniors will learn a new comprehensive health program covering drug resistance and also everything from first aid to exercise to emotional health to body systems. "We're going to be able to provide a much healthier curriculum for our kids," said Pam Lindberg, a district curriculum specialist in health and physical education. "The ultimate is to have healthier kids." Some of the about $500,000 a year the Minneapolis Police Department was spending on DARE will be saved, and some will be spent on four new school liaison officers to bring the total number to 19. That saves one aspect of the DARE program that many parents like: having kids and cops get to know each other.Police Chief Robert Olson said several studies have questioned the effectiveness of the DARE program when it's used in only one grade, as it is in Minneapolis. "If you're just using the single component, the fifth-grade component, it doesn't make a hill of difference," Olson said. Some Concerns: DARE is used in most Minnesota school districts, including St. Paul, at a total cost of several millions of dollars a year. In fact, the program is used in 80 percent of school districts nationwide, according to the nonprofit DARE America. Only a handful have pulled out of the program, said Ralph Lochridge, director of communications for DARE America. Lochridge said his organization's main concern would be that Minneapolis children get an effective antidrug message. He said he doesn't think liaison officers can be as effective, because DARE officers in the classroom have more direct access to kids. A 1997 Minnesota study by the DARE Advisory Council found that the program seems to have little lasting impact in preventing drug or alcohol use. Students reported that the drug-resistance strategies they learned during 17 hours of classroom instruction didn't fit the pressures they faced in the real world."Peer pressure is a lot harder in middle school and in high school," said Timothy Nelson, a freshman at Minneapolis' Washburn High, who's glad the program is being discontinued. "It's better to start out at a younger age and continue through middle school and high school."Nelson participated Wednesday as a trainer for about 65 middle-school students to become "bodyguards" -- students who coach younger kids through some of those peer pressures. "I had so many students come up to me and tell me that this was so much better than the DARE program," Nelson said. The district's new health program for kindergarten through sixth grade is called Great Body Shop. Lindberg said that 26 schools are using the curriculum now and that it will be phased in at the district's other 65 schools in the next two years.Sheree Zaccardi, who is the co-president of the Parent Partnership Council, said the district has some explaining to do. For one thing, there wasn't a parent representative on the committee that made the decision. She said she doesn't want kids to be without any antidrug messages while the district gets the new program in place. And, she asked, how are teachers going to fit one more thing into an already packed day? And where is the extra staff? "A comprehensive program would be wonderful, but if it's not properly staffed to get the program across to all the kids, it's pointless," Zaccardi said. Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson said she hopes the district will hear more parent voices in the future through the elected Parent Advisory Councils. She said that in this case, the district has heard feedback over the years from parents about DARE. Some liked the program, but many questioned it. "They wanted to know, 'What are we doing at sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade?' " she said. She also said the new curriculum will enhance a health program that already covers antidrug issues, and she hopes that, with extra teacher training, the program can fit into other subject areas. Newshawk: Tom SutherPublished Thursday, November 18, 1999  Copyright 1999 Star Tribune. All rights reserved. Related Articles:Grading Drug Prevention Programs, Part 1 & 2 - 9/07/99 Questions Effectiveness Of DARE - 8/30/99 DARE Ineffective 10 Years Later - 8/02/99
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on November 18, 1999 at 18:28:31 PT
Little kids, blank slates, and propaganda
Isn't it amazing how soon some parents forget how they themselves thought and acted in their growing years? How they thought the teacher was a windbag who didn't have anything worthwhile to say? How what was uppermost in their minds was not appearing to be in an 'out' group? Even more important was how they would try to circumvent educators and parents dictates and do what they wanted to anyway? Don't you remember how you resented someone who could tell you what to do, and make your life miserable if you didn't?Do you really think your kid's minds are blank slates? Slates that can be filled up with hypocritical nonsense, without some personal cost to you? Do you honestly think that they are any different from you when you were their age? They can see for themselves how society demands one code of conduct, but gets away with breaking that code with impunity, from the President chasing skirts to your puffing on a cigarette and sipping a martini and then telling your kids to 'don't do drugs'.By the time they are 10 years old, they have figured out in an inchoate way that this dichotomy exists. They know they are being manipulated, even if they can't spell the word.Do yourself a favor... really talk with them. Not *to* them, but *with* them. You might get frustrated, you might get angry, but you might also save their lives, too.You see, DARE is just another manipulator, and the kids pick that up right away. It's better that they hear it from you than just another paid propagandist. 
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