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Cities D.A.R.E. their kids to stay off drugs.

In rising numbers, communities across the nation are trying to equip youngsters with the resources and skills to avoid the pressure and temptation to use drugs and alcohol--before they leave elementary school. Through the joint efforts of local police departments and school districts, cities and towns are implementing a police officer-taught drug prevention program to 5th and 6th graders called D.A.R.E.: Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

Originally developed in Los Angeles through a cooperative effort of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Unified School District, D.A.R.E. is currently being taught in more than 3,500 cities in 50 states.

A recent Department of Justice report stated that since 1985, the number of juveniles held in custody for substance abuse offenses has increased by nearly 150 percent. The vast majority of juveniles in custody (80 percent) admit to using illegal drugs; nearly half reported illegal drug use before the age of 12.

D.A.R.E. is a school curriculum aimed at preventing adolescent drug use through building self-esteem and decision making skills.

The core program is taught to fifth or sixth graders and lasts 17 weeks. Lessons are taught by an experienced police oficer specially trained to teach the D.A.R.E. program and take place once a week for 45 minutes.

The lessons are designed to be interactive and are taught in a hands-on, participatory style. Police officers who teach D.A.R.E. go through 80 hours of training where they learn about child development, classroom management skills, engaging teaching methods and communication skills.

According to D.A.R.E. America, the national none-profit organization, D.A.R.E. does not simply tell kids to "just say no;" it teaches them how to say "no": "The D.A.R.E. lessons help children build their self-esteem, manage stress, foresee behavioral consequences, resist pro-drug media messages, and identify alternatives to drug use."

The D.A.R.E. program emphasizes five major areas: (1) providing accurate information about alcohol and drugs, (2) helping students develop self-esteem, (3) developing students skills in risk assessment and decision making, (4) showing them how to resist peer pressure through building up their interpersonal and communication skills, and (5) developing students ideas for positive alternatives to drug use.

Examples of the specific subjects covered each week throughout a grade school semester include: personal safety practices, drug use and misuse, resistance techniques, self-esteem building, assertiveness, managing stress without taking drugs, decision making and risk taking, alternatives to drug use, forming a support system and resisting gang pressure.

In addition to the weekly lessons which include role-playing of real-life experiences and workbook activities, D.A.R.E. officers hold a meeting to explain the program to the children's parents.

As time permits, D.A.R.E. officers will visit each of the lower grades (K-4) to introduce the program, slowly creating a foundation to be built upon at the 5th or 6th grade level.

There are curriculums available for continuing the D.A.R.E. program into the junion high and high school levels, although the 5th/6th grade curriculum is considered to be the core of the program.

The success of D.A.R.E. has been documented by an independent research firm, Evaluation and Training Institute. D.A.R.E. America reports that the initial findings of ETI's long-term study, which started in 1985, "show that the program has far exceeded its goal of helping students combat peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol. It has also contributed to improved study habits and grades, decreased vandalism and gang activity and has generated greater respect for police officers. Other evaluations around the country have shown similar results."

The success of D.A.R.E. in the United States has led to the program being introduced in 9 foreign countries including Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Department of Defense Schools worldwide.
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Title Annotation:includes related information on starting a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program; Futures Forum: Toward Family-Friendly Communities
Author:van der Merwe, Shelly
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Apr 6, 1992
Words:659
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