Another school shooting this week and fear returns to our nation’s parents and children. How quickly we Minnesotans forget that we have had two of our own schools shootings. Have we become so focused on politics that we forgot our children need us? What are we doing to prevent violence in our schools?
During the years of a poor economy, many communities somehow thought, it would be economical to eliminate D.A.R.E. programs. Let’s take the law enforcement officers out of the schools and put in a security plan instead. Let’s consider arming the teachers and ask our children to hide under their desks or in closets. Is this preventing violence?
Other communities said, let’s take the D.A.R.E. officer out of our elementary schools and put a liaison officer in the high schools instead. First, a liaison officer usually does not teach “prevention” but instead is working on “reacting” to incidents. I am not saying they are not necessary and helpful but this plan left our elementary kids with a school secretary or administrator as their front line of defense. Isn’t it safer to teach children prevention, starting at a young age?
When I first came to work for D.A.R.E., 17 years ago, our D.A.R.E. officers were on the playgrounds and in the lunchrooms. One the best parts of the program was the positive relationship between that officer, the children, and families they served. Now those officers, get a few hours in the classrooms a week, at best. At least those schools still have law enforcement in their buildings.
Over the past few years, many cities, schools, and law enforcement agencies decided they needed to cut budgets. They decided they could use the excuse to cut D.A.R.E. “because the studies say D.A.R.E. doesn’t work.” When I ask them “what studies?” I am usually left with a blank look.
There have been many, many studies of D.A.R.E. over the years. D.A.R.E. was the first and has been the largest drug and violence prevention program. D.A.R.E. took ALL of those studies and continued to update the program from that original program in the early 80’s. Studies are conducted to show us ways to become better and more effective. As time passes, you can build on those findings and modify the program to fit the times. D.A.R.E. has added additional programming through the years providing information for grades K-12, parents, and communities.
The current D.A.R.E. program is actually called keepin’ it…REAL. It is on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=133
What about the strength of the D.A.R.E. Officer in the classrooms as the instructor? This too has been studied and reported in a journal article. http://her.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/4/682.full
What about officers assisting with other important issues in our schools? Well, D.A.R.E. has a delivery system that has also been evaluated. We can take other important health and safety information and distribute it quickly to students and families, nationwide. http://www.substanceabusepolicy.com/content/1/1/25
Most important there are specially-trained, law enforcement officers walking the halls of our schools. They are trained to look for potential problems and take that information to the school administration, mental health workers, school nurses, teachers, and parents. This week they will be in the classrooms comforting children, teachers, and parents; who are frightened about their safety. They are trained to deal with emergency situations. Most important, they are friend to your children.
D.A.R.E. is a nonprofit organization. We do not make more money by having D.A.R.E. in more schools. IT IS OUR MISSION to educate and advocate for the health and safety of our children. We want to PREVENT these incidents!
If you are interested in a D.A.R.E. program in your school, you can find out how to start one at: http://www.dare.org/starting-a-dare-program/
For more information in Minnesota, contact us at Minnesota D.A.R.E., Inc. – MNDARE@aol.com
Kathi Ackerman, MSW, LGSW, LADC
Minnesota D.A.R.E., Inc. Executive Director