Salem-Keizer Schools Drop DARE - 10/15/98
Statesman Journal, PO Box 13009, Salem, Oregon 97309-1015
Anti-Drug Program Cut into Core Curriculum
by Kristin Green
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: 503-399-6706
Following a national trend , the Salem-Keizer School District has
abandoned the well-known Drug Abuse Resistance Education program
in half of it's schools.
The other half of the schools are evaluating the effective of the police
taught program, once touted as a national model for keeping kids drug-free.
Many teachers in those elementary schools have said they don't have
time in their busy classroom schedules for the program; they want DARE
to be offered after school.
Defenders of DARE say it builds self-esteem while teaching while teaching
kids to say no to drugs and alcohol. But a growing body of studies suggests
the benefits don't last.
"Most kids probably aren't going to listen," said Serena Dahl, 10, a fifth
at Liberty Elementary School.
State schools chief Norma Paulus believes DARE is ineffective. She thinks
schools should re-evaluate the role of the program in the school day.
"It's intrusive on instructional time and the studies don't show it
she said. "I think the better alternative ... is to have a strong health
According to a 1998 study by Salem-Keizer Together, a community drug-
prevention network, the number of sixth graders who use drugs at a moderate
to high rate rose to an all time high of 6.1 percent in 1998.
Thirteen percent of eight-graders and 19.2 percent of 11th-graders
drug use at that level.
DARE is taught one hour a week over sixteen weeks to fifth graders. A
police officer encourages kids to say no to drugs by telling them the effects
drugs on their bodies, the potential consequences of using drugs and specific
ways to say no. The program also works on building self-esteem and teaching
children to be assertive.
Salem-Keizer students already learn the skills taught in DARE from
and counselors, said Wink Miller, the school district's director of elementary
"We'll continue to focus on kids living healthy lifestyles. We think that
help us do the same things DARE will do for us," Miller said.
But John Stackhouse, a Salem police officer who teaches DARE in Salem
elementary schools, said teachers can't present lessons the same way he does.
"We walk in and have immediate credibility based on our background," said
Stackhouse, who was a narcotics officer in Salem for three years. "Every
working cop is going to have a different perspective on the effects of drugs."
Sarah Killian, a fifth-grader, said police officers tell stories of
experiences that make her want to stay away from drugs. She doubts her
regular teacher could do the same thing.
"It's nice to have the police officer come because he's more experienced",
DARE also allows police officers to develop rapport with with students
and their parents, said Marion County Sheriff Raul Ramirez, a staunch
Marion County deputies who taught DARE in Salem-Keizer schools were
reassigned a year ago. The deputies, paid with school district funds, became
full-time school resource officers. But deputies still teach DARE in 12
elementary schools outside the Salem-Keizer School District.
"It's allowed us to bond with the community. We see that as a manner of
reinforcing values," he said. "I wish we could be in every school."
Keizer elementary school teachers asked a year ago to eliminate the DARE
program, in part because officers weren't available to teach at the same time
every week. The officers' unpredictable schedules sometimes meant that DARE
interrupted class time devoted to core classes.
"It's more important for kids to learn to read and write," Paulus said.
But officers can teach the basics while doing the DARE lessons, supporters
say. Without the DARE program, children don't connect with police in a
"We're disappointed," said Keizer Police Lt. Kent Barker. "It's
because we're going to lose the contact with grade school kids."
Whiteacre Middle School in Keizer planned to teach DARE when it was
cut from the elementary schools, but administrators decided their wasn't time.
Courtney Brooks, a fifth-grader at Liberty, said middle school is the time
when she thinks she'll feel pressure to use drugs or drink alcohol.
"When you're in middle school, it's like, I need to make some friends,"
Amber Hames, 10, said, "I don't think one year is enough."
The commitment of good intentioned police officers makes it difficult for
school administrators to reject DARE.
"It's almost sacred. Sometimes it's hard to let go," said Larry Austin, a
spokesman for the Oregon Department of Education.
But Salem-Keizer school officials are feeling pressure from the state to
drop DARE, and they're concerned about the state's new instructional
standards and the schools' low test scores. As a result. they're rethinking
the way they use teaching time.
"It's not a movement away because we value the service of the program,
but it's our need to capture more time to intensify instruction," said Marlin
Herb, executive assistant to the superintendent of Salem-Keizer schools.
Carla Moyer, a prevention specialist for the school district, said DARE's
dose of refusal skills to fifth-graders isn't enough to keep children
throughout middle and high school.
"Is it more effective than what a good teacher would do? I don't think
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