D.A.R.E. Programs Sparse in Clarke County Schools

Ever since D.A.R.E.’s origination in 1983, its success has been in question. Countless studies have shown both that it succeeds and fails, but its effective presence in Athens-Clarke County remains a mystery due to confusion in policy implementation.
 
Captain Eric Pozen, who oversees the officers that run D.A.R.E., said that the ACC is doing everything necessary to keep the drug prevention program in its school system.
 
“We have seen wide success in the program since we have implemented it here in Athens-Clarke County,” Pozen said. “D.A.R.E. is a program that really works.”
 
A 2008 study by Monitoring the Future says that drug use has decreased 25 percent among youths from 2001 to 2008, confirming Pozen’s confidence in the program.
 
While Pozen makes bold claims that D.A.R.E. is working, there is at least one school that does not even have the program this year.
 
“We have not been contacted by the D.A.R.E. rep this year at all!” Elizabeth Pittard, a fifth grade teacher at Oglethorpe Elementary said. “I don’t know if they are not doing the program this year, or if it was my responsibility to contact them, but we are not having the program this year.”
 
Pittard continued to say that she was not sure of its success, but definitely thought it needed to be taught every year.
 
In a 2004 nation-wide study, a SUNY sociology professor found that D.A.R.E. is ineffective, and even counterproductive. David J. Hanson sites that even some of D.A.R.E.’s top leaders only rely on hope.
 
D.A.R.E., Drug and Resistance Education, is ideally taught to every fifth grade class in the county. That way, it hits kids before they get into real peer pressure situations in middle school and high school, Pozen said.
 
“D.A.R.E. officers are trained for a total of 120 hours,” Pozen said. “They are trained in areas such as child development, classroom management, teaching techniques, communication skills and are prepared to teach the high school curriculum.”
 
“Each school principal usually contacts us to set up the program, so I don’t know why Oglethorpe does not have the program this year,” Pozen said. “That needs to change for next year.”
 
Pozen said that every elementary school in the county last year had D.A.R.E. graduates, and that fact alone makes it a successful program.
 
Kyle Kirk, a fifth grade teacher at Whitehead Elementary, works with the D.A.R.E. officer (Officer Vince Jolly) at his school. He too questions its success.
 
“I believe [D.A.R.E.] is effective, however some of these kids may need to be educated in alternative ways,” Kirk said. “They are exposed to drug use through television and music so early now. Many of them see things I did not see until college.”
 
“It is the responsibility of the fifth grade teaching team and the D.A.R.E. officers to implement the program each year,” Kirk said. 
 
According to Captain Pozen, it is up to each principal to implement the D.A.R.E. program. Contradictory, Pittard was under the impression that it was the role of the D.A.R.E. officer to contact the school and organize the program.
 
After twenty-five years of operation, why are there still questions and confusion about basic principles of the program?
 
D.A.R.E. is not a federal program as of 2009. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, most of its funding comes from grants, fundraisers and public donor support.
 
According to the ACC Sheriff Department’s website, D.A.R.E. is in its tenth revision. And in and 2001 SUNY research paper called “The Economic Cost of D.A.R.E.,” it cost 1.04 to 1.34 billion per year. Although slightly outdated, these numbers are still large for a program that may or may not be working.
 
And while Pittard has not lost hope in D.A.R.E.’s success, she still remains baffled at its inconsistent presence in Clarke county schools.
 
“I really feel bad, now that this has been brought to my attention again,” she said. “What if one of my students this year begins drug use later down the line? Does that mean I’m to blame?”
 
Who’s to say?
 
Kirk said they (kids later on) might do drugs anyway. Pozen remains behind the program 100 percent.
 
“Even if the economy takes a turn for the worse, we will do everything we need to in order to keep the program alive,” Pozen said. “Through extensive fundraisers or sponsorships, D.A.R.E. will continue to survive because it is such a vital part of our education system.”
 
For more studies from Monitoring the Future, visit DARE.com

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