Editorial: DARE To Be Different?

Editorial: DARE To Be Different?
Posted by FoM on February 20, 2001 at 20:22:08 PT
By Register Editorial Board
Source: Des Moines Register 
Americans love campaigns. So when a group dared us to keep our kids off drugs, we jumped on the bandwagon. We sported the T-shirts, attached the bumper stickers to our cars and adopted the "just say no" mentality. But has DARE accomplished what it set out to do?DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) was started in 1983 as a joint venture between the Los Angeles Police Department and the local school district. 
It quickly caught on, and 18 years later the campaign has reached approximately 36 million kids. Based on the premise that prevention is the only real answer to drug abuse, officers provide youth with information about drugs, teach skills for dealing with peer pressure and build confidence.DARE Web sites point to studies that demonstrate the benefits of their program. They've had success in fostering better relationships between kids and police officers. DARE is an important part of the overall drug program in many schools. Students polled believe it meets its goals by providing students the tools to deal with peer pressure. But does it decrease drug use?Not significantly, it seems. According to critics, it fails to reach teens at highest risk, and some claim it may actually be damaging to students. The program fails to address a student's home life - one of the biggest indicators of drug use. Some claim it doesn't have the staying power to last kids through their adolescent years. Most important, it hasn't reduced drug use among youth.Now DARE officials are acknowledging their strategy isn't working. So they're developing a new approach. But should we give them more money?Taxpayers, businesses and police departments collect roughly $700 million a year for the program. Though DARE and the officers who participate should be commended for their efforts, that is a lot of money for a program that can't conclusively demonstrate results. It's time to try something different.Perhaps the use of rehabilitated abusers and counselors would be more effective than uniformed officers. The $700 million could go a long way toward employing additional counselors who are available to kids every day rather than one 17-week period in the sixth grade. What may be needed are people targeting the at-risk population - people who can detect changes in behavior and risk factors while working daily with kids. Counselors in the schools for the duration make more sense than a one-time dose of a "just say no" campaign. Before pouring more money into a slogan, let's consider programs that might have a better chance of success.It's a lot of money for a program that can't conclusively demonstrate results. Note: The popular program acknowledges that it hasn't succeeded.Source: Des Moines Register (IA) Published: February 20, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Des Moines Register. Address: P.O. Box 957, Des Moines IA 50304-0957 Fax: (515) 284-8560 Contact: letters Website: Feedback: DARE Archives
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Comment #1 posted by zenarch on February 20, 2001 at 20:40:09 PT
I'm for that!
DUMP D.A.R.E. on the scrap heap of a Drug War too long fought!
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