newsclips on d.a.r.e.


D.A.R.E. to question?

The Chapel Hill Herald, Friday, October 15, 1993, FORUM.

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This column starts with an abstract:

"A preliminary report suggests the D.A.R.E. education program has little to no effect on children's drug use. With hundreds of millions of tax dollars invested in D.A.R.E., it may be time to take a closer look at the highly popular program."

and a quote from a student at Stanback Middle School:

"It's too bad you can't just throw a peace bomb and BOOM - no more drugs and alcohol."

The columns points out that there are no peace bombs or easy solutions to substance abuse, a complex problem rooted in many other social problems. It relates that for a decade, most of the community's efforts to steer children "down the straight and narrow" have been through the federally funded D.A.R.E. program. It points out D.A.R.E.'s extreme popularity, and recounts that when a columnist from the Herald cited studies indicating D.A.R.E. to be less effective than is thought, defenders of the program rushed forward.

But, it reports, a report conducted for the Justice Department by the Durham-based Research Triangle Institute confirms that D.A.R.E. appears to have "a limited to essentially non-existent effect" on drug use.

The column asks for readers to agree that "When it comes to children there can be no sacred cows. If D.A.R.E. isn't doing the job it's supposed to, we owe it to those fifth- and sixth- graders to find out why."

The column doesn't conclude that we should throw out the program, noting that it may have other merits. But it does assert that there are important questions we should be asking about D.A.R.E., including whether it is the right program to be receiving most federal drug education money.

It points out that "parents play a significant role in preventing their children's drug use. Yet when Carrboro D.A.R.E. officer Darryl Roseboro spoke to city school parents last February, only 20 people showed up."

The concludes by saying we need to raise these questions about D.A.R.E., to determine "if we are doing all we can to keep kids off drugs."

Minutes of the D.A.R.E. Review Committee

June 14, 1994, Chapel Hill-Carrboro (North Carolina) School District, North Carolina.

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"The committee previewed the D.A.R.E. video and had serious concerns with it. These concerns are:

  • The video is aimed at young students (younger than 10); however, the content is inappropriate for young students.
  • There is a scene depicting adult alcoholism. The scene is never discussed.
  • The story is unrealistic. The 'land of decisions and choices' makes it seem like use occurs on in weird and unusual places.
  • The way pushers are depicted is unrealistic; it makes it seem like pushers are weird and unusual. In fact, most young people start using with their friends.
  • The video really does not respect the students knowledge about drugs.
  • Peer pressure is mentioned but the characters trying to get the students to use are not their peers.
  • The effects of marijuana are overdone and unrealistic.
  • The video makes a confusing distinction between soft and hard drugs.
  • The video implies that drug dependency is a matter of will power and that being drug free requires just one big action."

Report of the Committee to Review the Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Substance (TAOS) Curriculum

June 16, 1994, Ashfield-Plainfield (Massachusetts) Regional School District, Sanderson Academy School Council, p. 7.

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"Although some have questioned the propriety of police officers coming into classrooms, members of the committee recall such visits when they were in school. Usually the subject was bike safety or what to do if you got lost. There is nothing new about police coming into schools to teach survival skills. What is new about D.A.R.E. is police coming into schools to teach attitudes and mental health."

D.A.R.E.'s muddled message to kids

The Boston Globe, Wednesday, September 21, 1994

by Richard M. Evans

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Last week's reports that D.A.R.E. cannot account for $5 million in smoking prevention money comes as a surprise; more surprising is what D.A.R.E. is teaching our children.

D.A.R.E. is an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. It was started by Darryl Gates and the Los Angeles Police Department 11 years ago, and has since expanded to thousands of schools in 50 states and some foreign countries, gaining enthusiastic support from teachers, law enforcement agencies and students. In this program, uniformed police officers spend an hour per week for 17 weeks with schoolchildren, mostly fifth and sixth graders, purportedly educating them to resist drug abuse and often developing close personal attachments in the process.

As the parent of a fifth grader, I recently served on a committee in our local school to look at D.A.R.E. and other drug prevention curricula We found that D.A.R.E. is good on some things, such as teaching children how to thwart an improper approach from a stranger. However, we were left with serious concerns about D.A.R.E.. Here are some of them:

Despite D.A.R.E.'s popularity, there is no hard evidence that it actually works. The best thing the (Massachusetts) Governor's Alliance Against Drugs can say after surveying all available evaluations is, "The conclusions are mixed as to the effectiveness of D.A.R.E. in decreasing drug use among students who have participated." A report of the Research Triangle Institute, commissioned by the US Department of Justice, says the program has a "limited to essentially nonexistent effect on drug use."

D.A.R.E. relies on the old "values clarification" approach (trendy in the '70s, but now generally discredited) wherein children are not told what is right or wrong, or permissible or impermissible, but rather they are "helped to prize and act upon their own freely chosen values," in the words of a 1975 educational psychology textbook. Thus D.A.R.E. does not tell children that they must not use drugs. Instead, D.A.R.E. tells them that they have the "right to say no," implying that they have the "right to say yes."

A Portland, Maine, D.A.R.E. officer quoted in he September 1992 issue of Governing, put it more simply: "I say to kids, 'You can smoke dope if you like, as long as you've considered the consequences.' " Conversely, D.A.R.E. teaches children that they must obey traffic laws. Imagine telling student drivers that they have the "right" to stop for a school bus. It would be confusing, misleading and hazardous. Yet that is what D.A.R.E. tells students about obeying drug laws.

D.A.R.E. trafficks in ambiguities. Despite the term drug abuse in its name, for example, D.A.R.E. doesn't tell children what drug abuse is, or how it can be identified. The closest it comes is to define abuse as the "wrong use of something; such as, misuse of drugs." No standard - legal, moral, physical or otherwise - is offered to establish what is "wrong" and whose determination that is. Nor does D.A.R.E. say what "misuse" is.

D.A.R.E.'s most serious deficiency is that the emphasis is not on drugs at all, but on "building self-esteem" and "controlling stress." The former is achieved in part by reciting a litany of "rights" said to have been conferred on fifth graders, like the "right to be happy."

If my son is unhappy about turning off the TV and going to bed, I don't want somebody telling him his rights have been violated. "Stress" is said by D.A.R.E. to be caused by a variety of normal experiences, including taking a trip, meeting someone new, or doing your chores!

Finally, D.A.R.E. is not respectful toward the authority of parents. Although "resistance skills" are emphasized, it is not made clear against whom such skills are to be used. In the D.A.R.E. video, called "The Land of Choices and Decisions," the only trustworthy adults depicted are the D.A.R.E. officer and the teacher. The other adults are drug dealers and a drunken father.

Looking at D.A.R.E. was an eye-opener for me. It's a peculiar mix of education, therapy and law enforcement, and it deserves the scrutiny of parents.

Richard M. Evans is a lawyer in Northampton.

Opinion: Anti-drug messages aren't working

Daily Hampshire Gazette, Friday, December 30, 1994

Guest Column, by Richard M. Evans

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The recent tragic heroin-related deaths in the Valley should compel us to a harsh examination of what went wrong. The Gazette responsibly asks that question in an editorial Dec. 23, but skims the surface, I think to place the blame on the "glamorization" of heroin.

Heroin use is certainly not "glamorized" in our culture, by any stretch of the imagination. We do not see the rich and famous praising its alleged virtues in magazine ads and television commercials. The word reeks of contempt. One wonders how many readers of the Gazette have ever heard a kind thing said about it.

The fact is, massive public information campaigns about the risks and dangers of illegal drugs have been bombarding young eyes and ears at an historically high level for years.

Anti-drug messages are propounded by drug educators, law enforcement authorities and public health officials, among others, and most prominently by the media/advertising alliance called the Partnership for a Drug Free America. Its campaign to "unsell illegal drugs" represents the second largest advertising campaign in history, and one of the most creative. The message is adroit and ubiquitous.

The problem, I suggest, is not that young people don't hear the anti-drug message. It is that they aren't listening. And they aren't listening because the message is muddled, dishonest, and propagandistic.

Consider, for example, the largest drug prevention program in schools, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.). A peculiar mix of education, psychology and law enforcement, D.A.R.E. does not tell kids to say no to drugs. Rather, it tells them that they have the "right to say no," implying that they have the "right to say yes."

The Portland, Maine, D.A.R.E. officer put it this way "I tell kids they can smoke dope if they want, as long as they consider the consequences." Just say maybe.

Anti-drug messages routinely deceive audiences by exaggerating the risks of marijuana, often erroneously described as a "gateway drug." Thus young people are told that marijuana causes cancer, or amotivational syndrome, or immune system or testosterone deficiencies, or birth defects, or any of a long false list of horribles. Problem is, as kids grow up and see little or no negative consequences, they realize that they were lied to about marijuana. If they can't believe the warnings about marijuana, why should they believe the warnings about heroin?

Anti-drug indoctrination does achieve one thing, and that is to reinforce the existing policy of prohibiting some drugs and promoting others. During the years of alcohol prohibition (1920-33), tens of thousands of people were killed and seriously injured from drinking concoctions of unknown purity or potency. Their stories might dramatically illustrate why heroin is so dangerous today, but those stories are not being told, because to tell them is to raise uncomfortable questions about the wisdom and efficacy of prohibition.

Are some drugs illegal because they are bad, or bad because they are illegal? If the drug war were really about drugs, would not alcohol and tobacco be outlawed? Why aren't we bothered by the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by those drugs?

Curiously, major sponsors of the Partnership for Drug-Free America include the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries, who have a direct stake in keeping their drug-dealing legal, and making sure that their products are not seen as the drugs they are.

Everybody is for protecting people, especially the young, from the harm of drugs, as well as securing the public health and safety, and eliminating the crime and violence associated with illegal trafficking. Do we achieve these goals, or merely dig ourselves deeper into the morass, by intensifying prohibition enforcement and the accompanying demonization campaign, as the Gazette urges?

Why not acknowledge honestly that this approach has failed, and with compassion for the families of victims, explore alternate means of achieving those ends?

Richard M. Evans is a lawyer with an office in Northampton.


Doubts about D.A.R.E.

The News & Observer, Saturday, August 19, 1995, Fayetteville, NC.

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This editorial lauds the Fayetteville Police Department's decision to drop the D.A.R.E. program in favor of a family-intervention program that it considers more effective. The Observer writes "That action, along with a reassessment of D.A.R.E. by town officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, may encourage other communities to take a hard look at whether this program is the best way to keep school kids from using drugs."

The editorial notes that D.A.R.E. is popular with teachers, parents and police, and commends its goal of helping children resist peer pressure to use drugs, but points out that experts, including analysts at the Research Triangle Institute, "haven't found that it actually reduces or prevents drug use."

It points out that D.A.R.E. defenders points to the fact that the program builds strong relationships with police, but dismisses that point, noting that "the program wasn't set up as a public relations vehicle for law enforcement. If D.A.R.E. isn't impacting on the problem it is meant to address, the Observer writes, then it's obviously not the best use of money or time, both of which are in scarce supply in school systems.

The column then asks what, if D.A.R.E. doesn't work, does work? It then notes that finding that right combination is difficult. But, it concludes, "as long as D.A.R.E. is blindly accepted, the chances of discovering and nurturing a better alternative grow dimmer."

D.A.R.E. program looking to expand its reach

Daily Hampshire Gazette, Easthampton, MA, Friday, October 6, 1995, Page 12

By Christina Rothwell, Staff Writer

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This article, from a town in western Massachusetts, describes plans to expand the D.A.R.E. program, currently only for fifth-graders, to include more students and even parents, as soon as the following spring. The school system and D.A.R.E. Officer Vernon Pare, it reports, are working together to expand the program to kindergartners through fourth-graders as soon as the following January (1996), and that seventh-graders might be enrolled the following September. The article reports that the town has applied for a state grant from the Department of Public Safety to expand the programs, at that time running on a budget of $6000, financed by state grants and donations, mainly from businesses.

Officer Pare, it reports, teaches the 17-week program, designed to teach students self-esteem and how to resist peer pressure, to fifth-graders at the White Brook Middle School and Notre Dame- Immaculate Conception School. Two hundred White Brook students took the program during the preceding year, and 230 fifth-graders were preparing to enroll in it the following week.

Officer Pare, who is in his second year as a D.A.R.E. officer, is quoted, "I love doing it. It brightens my day to see the kids. If I am late one minute, they tell me." Patrolman William Mielke and Police Chief Robert G. Redfern are also D.A.R.E. officers in Easthampton.

Under the D.A.R.E. parents program, parents would meet for two hours, once a week, for six weeks, at the Notre Dame School, for education on how their actions affect their children.

Speaking about working with younger children Officer Pare says "I would love to do it. It would be a lot of fun." He hopes it will allow young children to get to know the D.A.R.E. officer better and feel more comfortable talking with him. He also feels the seventh-grade program would be a change, because teenage students have different attitudes and more freedom. "That also should reinforce a positive relationship with police just as those youngsters enter their teen-age years.".

Study Assails School-Based Drug Programs

Los Angeles Times, Saturday, October 21, 1995, Page B1

Education: Attempts to discourage use are largely ineffective, researchers say. But state has no plans to publish findings.

By Erin Texeira, Times Staff Writer

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This article reports on a comprehensive study commissioned by the California Department Education that found that school-based programs like D.A.R.E. and Red Ribbon Week are ineffective. It reports that the study, conducted by a coalition of researchers and professors, finds that drug and alcohol programs based on lectures and assemblies "lack credibility with the state's teenagers and fail to reach the students most at risk of using drugs." The Department of Education, however, disputes the study's findings and does not intend to publish it.

Greg Wolf, a consultant for the Department, is quoted saying, "Our problems with this study had to do with what we though was faulty methodology." Wolf, who was not directly involved with the study, did not give any specific examples of this, and other department officials "could not be reached for comment." Researchers, however, defended the study, and could not understand why the state has taken the unusual step of not publishing its own research. (The study is now available in full text on the web at More than 40% of the students in study, who had been randomly polled, said that school anti-drug programs affected their decision whether or not to use drugs "not at all".

The article then described the D.A.R.E. program, a 17-week curriculum beginning in the fifth grade, started by the Los Angeles Police Department, that "focuses on the problems created by drug use and tries to teach them that drug use is not universal." Sgt. George Villalobos, an administrative supervisor for the program, is quoted saying ""There is no way to truly gauge the effectiveness of D.A.R.E., but we know it's successful because of the people we talk to all the time. I'd like to know what [those who conducted the study] recommend in place of this."

The researchers, Joel Brown of Berkeley-based Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Marianne D'Emidio-Caston of UC Santa Barbara and Jordan Horowitz of Southwest Regional Laboratory in Los Alamitos, spent more than three years conducting research for the study, according to the article. They had reported their findings at a convention in Santa Monica the preceding Friday.

The study, which involved 5,000 students and 240 schools, found that students became more and more jaded about drug-prevention programs as they grew older. It found that while only 10 percent of elementary school students had a negative or neutral attitude toward drug-prevention programs, that number increased to 90 percent of high school students; and that 7 in 10 students felt a negative or neutral attitude toward their drug-prevention educators and 3 in 10 disliked their drug-prevention counselors "a little" or "a lot." One elementary school student was quoted as responding "Oh, they lie to you so that you won't do drugs." A high school student stated, "They are not in this for helping you, they are in for getting rid of the bad kids and just having all the good kids in school."

According to the article, a growing body of research is finding that the most effective programs engage children in role-playing and group discussions, rather have them listen to an adult standing in front of the class urging them to abstain.



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