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Education Reporter
DARE Graduates Are Saying 'Yes' to Drugs

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CHICAGO, IL — Another study has been released that shows the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE) has little effect on preventing drug use among teens. Conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the study actually showed a slight increase in drug and alcohol use among suburban students who had been through the DARE program compared with those who had not. The study involved 1,800 students from the 6th to the 12th grades at 300 public schools in the city of Chicago, its suburbs, and surrounding rural areas. The students were tracked for a period of six years to measure DARE's impact. The Illinois State Police sponsored the study.

One of the researchers, Professor Dennis Rosenbaum, cited the "sophistication" of suburban students as a reason many of them failed to take the DARE officers and their message seriously. Some students said the information about specific drugs piqued their curiosity and tempted them to "see for themselves" whether the drugs really produced the effects the officers claimed. The most favorable impact of DARE was on urban students, the study showed, where officers were more likely to spend time with students outside the classroom setting.

This latest study reinforces the findings of many previous studies that DARE fails to de-ter drug use among youth. A Detroit News editorial on March 28 suggests, "it may be time to ask whether the half-billion dollars in taxpayer money and private donations that DARE absorbs every year could be better spent on something else."

DARE remains extremely popular with the public. Currently, it is offered in nearly 80% of the school districts in the country, as well as in many private schools. Since the UIC study and a University of Michigan study last year which found marijuana use to have tripled among 8th graders, DARE supporters are claiming that what is needed is not a cut- back in the program, but an expansion. DARE instruction is typically given in the 5th or 6th grade, and supporters say the message may need to be reinforced at the high school level.

One area where DARE has apparently been beneficial is in providing kids with "ways to say no" to drugs. Still, as the Detroit News put it, "Drug use is a complicated matter that may not be amenable to a full and nuanced exploration in a classroom inhabited by students from homes with diverse beliefs and attitudes." The editorial suggests "it may be time for schools to focus on teaching the basics and leave the matter of drug use to families."

How Dare Works

The DARE program was started in 1983 by Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates. It is funded by a combination of federal, state and local government money, plus private donations.

Police officers conduct a 17-week instruction program in the classroom, typically at the 5th or 6th grade level, though it can span kindergarten through the 12th grade.

DARE officers describe the perils of drug use, explaining the common major illegal drugs including marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and hallucinogenic drugs, and help students find ways to say "no" to trying drugs. Students may create skits in which they rebuff drug dealers and friends trying to persuade them to try drugs.

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