Pubdate: Thu, 11 Jul 2002
Source: Times Daily (Florence, AL)
Copyright: 2002 Times Daily
Author: Emilio Sahurie


TUSCUMBIA - Tuscumbia police Maj. Carol Burns relishes visits from college 
students who remembered her lessons on turning down drugs and alcohol.

"I have had former students come back from college to attend a younger 
brother's D.A.R.E. graduation," Burns said.

Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., operates in 80 percent of all 
school districts around the country and reaches 36 million young people 
each year. The drug education program covers topics such as gang activity, 
peer pressure and consequences of drug use.

The educational program keeps Burns busy during the school year teaching or 
writing grants. She also drives the department's truck emblazoned with 
D.A.R.E. logos and sometimes can be found sporting a D.A.R.E. mascot, Daren 
the lion, T-shirt around police headquarters.

Her dedication to D.A.R.E. may keep her busier this upcoming school year.

More than 100 fellow officers voted Burns vice president during the Alabama 
D.A.R.E. Officers Association annual conference last month. She is the 
first woman to serve on the association's board of directors and is charged 
with coordinating information among the state's D.A.R.E. officers.

The 50-year-old police officer will ascend to president of the association 
once her year-old term as the No. 2 state D.A.R.E. administrator expires.

"I am really honored my peers have that much confidence in me," said Burns 
who has been a D.A.R.E. officer for 11 of her 12 years at the force.

Burns and several officers are active in Tuscumbia schools and with 
Covenant Christian School, leading 17-week D.A.R.E. courses to fifth-graders.

Drug education is one of the most important programs in the department, 
said Tuscumbia Assistant Chief Larry McAnally. Important enough that a 
D.A.R.E. logo is painted on the side of the police station.

"It reflects well on our little town to have this honor," said McAnally 
about Burns' position.

Besides parents, D.A.R.E. often represents a student's first frank 
discussions about the dangers of substance abuse, he said. Using officers 
as role models, the training has evolved to include discussions about new 
wave of club drugs and other pills like OxyContin that police have been 
seeing more of in recent years.

"For the younger kids, it might more that likely (be) their first contact 
(in) learning about the negative things about alcohol and drug use," 
McAnally said.

Burns said she wants to continue empowering officers with the information 
they need to make a difference in schools. Stories Burns hears from 
students and teachers and recent studies suggest D.A.R.E. is effective in 
reaching children, she said.

Findings of a University of Akron study released earlier this year show 
that students who were taught D.A.R.E. curriculum demonstrated improved 
communication skills and beliefs about the prevalence of substance use. The 
study was conducted in 11 middle schools in Ohio with 460 students in the 
fall of 2000.

Students showed an increase in refusal skills and a decrease in their 
perception of peer drug use.

"They are learning that it's no longer cool to use drugs," Burns said.

Breaking the gender barrier is nothing new to Burns. Besides being the 
first woman officer at the state D.A.R..E. association, Burns was 
Tuscumbia's first female officer.

One of the highest-ranking women in area police agencies, Burns was also 
the first class president in 1990 as a police cadet at Selma's police academy.

"Children are learning more these days about drugs than we did when we were 
children," Burns said. "Times have changed, and it's important we keep 
abreast of what's going on in their lives."
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