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Education Reporter

More Communities Dare to Drop DARE 

After 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and private donations, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program is grinding to a halt in a growing number of communities. DARE officials in Illinois are predicting that half the schools in the state currently offering the program will drop it by the end of this year. California communities including Long Beach and Huntington Beach have cut the program for the spring semester due to budget constraints.

Pivotal in the decision by many communities to resist DARE are studies over the past decade that consistently demonstrate DARE's ineffectiveness in deterring drug use among young people. Recently, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) added to the list by announcing that it had reviewed "six long-term evaluations of the DARE elementary school curriculum." The GAO report states that "no significant differences in illicit drug use between students who received DARE in the 5th or 6th grade (the intervention group) and students who did not (the control group)" were found.

A standing criticism of DARE is that the program takes police officers off the streets and places them in the classroom, with dubious results. The Chicago Tribune reported (1-26-03) that the city of Chicago Ridge "dropped DARE last year after 13 years, because there was no corresponding decrease in drug arrests in the community." Police Chief Tim Balderman told the Tribune that the city had in fact had "an increase in arrests, all DARE graduates."

"I can't tell you how many kids told me DARE introduced them to drugs," Balderman explained. "The problem with DARE, other than that it's a multimillion dollar conglomerate in the business of selling T-shirts, is that it takes the burden off parents to raise their kids."

But DARE is not likely to disappear altogether any time soon. The DARE organization began a partnership with the University of Akron, Ohio in 2001 to re-evaluate the program, and a new version of the program will be introduced in six cities next fall. The new DARE will be shortened from 17 weeks to 10, and will target older children instead of 5th- and 6th-graders.

David Nott, president of the Los Angeles-based think tank, the Reason Foundation, editorialized last month in the Orange County Register that DARE's "in-house assessment won't be complete until 2006 - meaning millions more in taxpayer money will flow into the program in the interim. Furthermore, while select students in six cities may get a new lesson from DARE, the vast majority of kids continue to receive the same old tired message - a message that has proven to be completely useless."

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