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This paper explores the D.A.R.E. program and argues how D.A.R.E. can be effective and how it cannot be effective. An overview and history of the program is given and then research and studies are referenced for and against the program.
Drug Abuse and Resistance Education, better known as D.A.R.E., has been used throughout schools for a very long time. The question is, does it work? Well, that depends on who one would ask. If one asked a law enforcement agent, they would most likely give an answer like, yes of course it works. But if one asked a parent or a teenager, they will most likely give a response like, no it’s a waste of time. There is evidence supporting both arguments, but in the end, the research will show that, unfortunately, D.A.R.E. does not work.
The D.A.R.E. curriculum originally started in the 1980s and has since been adapted and changed and is still currently going on in schools. The program has been designed for 5th and 6th graders to prevent them from trying substances in middle school (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 39). The program has then been adapted again for K-12th grade. This is the time, experts believe that children will be faced with making decisions regarding substances, this program teaches these children to resist peer pressure and ways to practice refusal techniques (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 39). The original D.A.R.E. curriculum had 17 lessons and now it is reduced to 9 lessons, and a graduation ceremony has been added (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 39).
The D.A.R.E Program is taught by local police officers in uniform usually once a week for 50 minutes or less (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 39). “All D.A.R.E officers receive 80 hours of in-person training before being certified to teach the curriculum. Their training includes curriculum instruction, teaching strategies, communication skills, classroom management, adolescent development, drug information, and opportunities to practice various lessons” (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 39). So as one can see, a lot of work, money, and effort goes into training these police officers to be teachers.
A study was done that comprised 17 schools and in each school, researchers compared 5th grade students who did not receive D.A.R.E to students who did receive D.A.R.E. (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 43). Researchers found that students who voluntarily left the study were 1.5 times more likely to report use of alcohol and were 2.9 times more likely to have ever tried marijuana (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 43). This finding proves that in this specific study, students who stayed with the program had a better chance of not abusing alcohol and drugs. The study also found that students who dropped out of the study were older than those who remained (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 43). Students were also less likely to be absent on the days when they received D.A.R.E than on other weekdays (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 43).
In relation to parents’ perceptions of the D.A.R.E program, a study found that 6 out of 10 parents reported their awareness of problems related to alcohol and tobacco and other drug use increased because of the program (Lucas, 2008, p. 107). Another important aspect of the D.A.R.E program is establishing communication between children and parents about the risks of drugs. “Nearly 8 out of 10 (79.4%) parents indicated that they had increased discussion about drug use with their children as a result of that child’s participation in the DARE program” (Lucas 2008, pg. 108). Also, parents with children participating in the D.A.R.E. program had a more positive perception of police officers (50.5%) (Lucas, 2008, p. 109).
On its surface, D.A.R.E may seem like it works and has some positive benefits, but like an iceberg, there is still the part below the surface. The first D.A.R.E program had some immediate effects of knowledge of drugs, social skills, and attitudes towards the police, however, these effects disappear within 1-2 years (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 816). Also, the effect of D.A.R.E on drug use behaviors is very rare and when found, often turn out to be very small. In fact, a longitudinal study found an increase in drug use in suburban communities (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 816). People may not know, but the D.A.R.E program has a political agenda hidden inside it. The Department of Justice went on to conduct a national assessment of D.A.R.E. to show its effectiveness and the results were less than pleasing (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 817). The Research Triangle Institute, which is federally funded, found that although D.A.R.E is popular with schools and police departments, it does not prevent drug use (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 817). Ironically the funding agency for the Research Triangle Institute decided these findings were not worthy of publication, but the findings were later produced in a peer-reviewed journal (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 817). After that study was conducted, the American government questioned any negative research that accused the effectiveness of D.A.R.E., of course, they endorsed positive studies supporting D.A.R.E. though (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 817). The Department of Justice and the Department of Education and members of Congress used $10 million a year to fund D.A.R.E for most of the 1990s (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 817). More findings came out from another longitudinal study in 1999 after efforts were made to improve D.A.R.E, again showed no long-term effects for the program. The president of the D.A.R.E organization referred to the study as “voodoo science” in the Washington Post in 2001 (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 817). Also in 2001 “…an expert panel created by the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools listed 9 “exemplary” and 33 “promising” programs that would be given priority for SDFSCA funds. D.A.R.E did not make either list” (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 817). Dennis P. Rosenbaum, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, says that we can no longer afford to endorse programs that are known to be ineffective.
The D.A.R.E program costs Americans a lot of money every year to run, during the Bush administration $500 million was spent to implement such programs because of the “war on drugs” was such a big issue during that time (Kochis, 2001). A study was done in a southern New Jersey township, out of 100 students sampled, only 12 criminal offenses were recorded, but 11 of the 12 criminal offenses were committed by male youths in the experimental group which had experienced D.A.R.E. (Kochis, 2001). Another study was done which measured the parent’s perceptions of the D.A.R.E. program. General responses from parents yielded a result that the D.A.R.E program did not have much impact on their children academically (Lucas, 2008, p. 106). About 64.7% of parents said they saw “little or no change” in their child’s grades in school. 66.7% also said they saw “little or no change” in their children’s study habits (Lucas, 2008, p. 106). There was also a moderate decline from 2001 to 2007 in the odds of schools providing D.A.R.E because of all the studies going on at that time testing its effectiveness (Kumar, O’Malley, Johnston, Laetz, 2013, p. 586).
Another problem with the D.A.R.E program is the lack of information on prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse is a very real and relevant problem that the D.A.R.E program should be teaching. Prescription drug abuse is a serious public health issue, it is increasing in magnitude in the United States among young people (Morris, Welch Cline, Weiler, Broadway, 2005, p. 34). 13.7% of youth ages 12-17, which is within the age range of D.A.R.E. have abused prescription drugs and each year close to half of new prescription drug abusers are under the age of 18 (Morris, Welch Cline, Weiler, Broadway, 2005, p. 34). In fact, a study concluded that much, if not most of what people learn about prescription drug abuse comes from school health classes (Morris, Welch Cline, Weiler, Broadway, 2005, p. 34). D.A.R.E contains few objectives and doesn’t offer enough content relating to prescription drugs, it also doesn’t teach the proper medical use of prescription drugs. It doesn’t even mention in its curriculum that prescription drugs can even be abused (Morris, Welch Cline, Weiler, Broadway, 2005, p. 39-41). Especially in the modules for elementary and middle schools, prescription drugs and concepts are barely addressed (Morris, Welch Cline, Weiler, Broadway, 2005, p. 43).
On the outside, D.A.R.E may look like the best school-based drug prevention program. And some people argue that it is, however, those people are usually politicians, members of the government, and congress because they fund it (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 817). But the evidence doesn’t lie, D.A.R.E does not look good on paper. Many studies have been done since the 1980s, proving the programs ineffectiveness. The government has been dumping millions of dollars into a program that should have literally been dumped (Kochis, 2001). But instead, when certain negative findings came out, departments tried to improve D.A.R.E. even though it was beyond repair. (Rosenbaum, 2007, p. 818). For a program that doesn’t work, it sure does take a lot of effort from police to maintain. Instead of having the police force out patrolling, protecting, and serving, they’re being sent to 80 hours of in person training to be certified in teaching this useless program (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 39). It has been proven time and time again that even if the information sticks in the heads of the children, it phases out rather quickly as they grow up. This is proven in the finding that students who dropped out of the study were older than those who remained (Vincus, Ringwalt, Harris, Shamblen, 2010, p. 43). Older kids are simply not interested and younger kids do not hold onto the information long enough for it to be effective. The gap on prescription drug abuse in the D.A.R.E. program proves that the program is biased. Prescription drugs are legal in the United States, big pharmaceutical companies want to make money, so the government doesn’t implement prescription drug abuse in the D.A.R.E program. While marijuana is illegal, the government or pharmaceutical companies can’t make any money off of it, so this becomes the “gateway drug” while statistics show that more and more prescription drug abusers are under the age of 18 (Morris, Welch Cline, Weiler, Broadway, 2005, p. 34). The D.A.R.E program has run its course, its fallen into numerous potholes and has run out of gas time and time again, yet it still gets refueled and continues driving. D.A.R.E. does not work and it’s about time it meets its fate it has been escaping for years.
- Kumar, R., O’Malley, P. M., Johnston, L. D., & Laetz, V. B. (2013). Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use Prevention Programs in U.S. Schools: A Descriptive Summary. Prevention Science, 14(6), 581-592. doi:10.1007/s11121-012-0340-z
- Kochis, D. S. (1995). The effectiveness of Project DARE: Does it work?. Journal Of Alcohol & Drug Education, 40(2), 40.
- Lucas, W. (2008). Parents’ Perceptions of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (DARE). Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 17(4), 99-114. doi: 10.1080/15470650802292905
- Morris, M. C., Cline, R. J., Weiler, R. M., & Broadway, S. C. (2005). Prescription Drug Abuse Information In D.A.R.E. Journal of Drug Education, 36(1), 33-45. doi:10.2190/at0p-ngt8-2kwy-uy48
- Rosenbaum, D. P. (2007). Just Say No To D.a.r.e. Criminology & Public Policy, 6(4), 815-824. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2007.00474.x
- Vincus, A. A., Ringwalt, C., Harris, M. S., & Shamblen, S. R. (2010). A Short-Term, Quasi- Experimental Evaluation of D.A.R.E.’s Revised Elementary School Curriculum. Journal of Drug Education, 40(1), 37-49. doi:10.2190/de.40.1.c
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