Pubdate: Sat, 02 Nov 2002
Source: Troy Messenger (AL)
Copyright: 2002 Troy Messenger
Author: Stephen Stetson


Can DARE be better? Yes, say both proponents and opponents of the drug 
prevention program.

And that is in part why DARE America, the multi-million dollar corporation 
behind the largest drug prevention network in the United States, has 
decided to revise the curriculum of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education 
program. The new middle school prevention program is currently being tested 
in six cities across the nation: Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans 
and St. Louis.

Troy's new DARE program is currently using the old curriculum and is 
targeted at elementary school students. That curriculum, focused on 
fifth-graders, will be revised by Fall 2003, according to DARE officials.

"We were very concerned that DARE was not as good as it could be," said Dr. 
Herbert Kleber, Chairman of DARE's Scientific Advisory Board.

Hence, DARE has begun work with the University of Akron's Institute for 
Health and Social Policy, through a $13.7 million grant from the Robert 
Wood Johnson Foundation, to develop and test a completely new curriculum. 
According to Kleber, who is also a professor of psychiatry at Columbia, the 
criticism leveled at DARE's core program justified an overhaul, but not 
scrapping DARE altogether. "We decided that if you kill DARE, the money 
wouldn't go into other programs. It would just go away. What was needed was 
not to kill it, but to improve it," he said.

Critics, including the federal Department of Justice and several prominent 
universities and research facilities, had been releasing studies since 
DARE's inception in 1983 showing that the program had little to no effect 
on rates of drug use among young people.

According to an article written for the National Institute of Drug Abuse by 
Dr. Carol Kumpfer of the University of Utah, DARE has revised its 
curriculum nine times and continually adds additional grade levels to its 
scope. Initially targeted at fifth-graders, officials now say DARE is a 
comprehensive Kindergarten through 12th-grade program. "You can't just 
stick kids in a program with nothing before it and expect it to decrease 
drug use," said John Lindsey, regional director of DARE for the region that 
covers Alabama. However, Lindsey said no school in his entire district, 
which covers seven states, has yet adopted a K-12 program.

"There are probably budgetary reasons for that," he said.

Troy Police Department officials have indicated they plan to expand the 
DARE program to third and seventh grades over the next few years.

As for the latest University of Akron study, Dr. Zili Sloboda, principal 
investigator of the study, said, "The positive findings are very encouraging."

The six-city, five-year study of the new DARE curriculum is only one year 
old, but showed improvements in students' decision-making skills, drug 
refusal skills and beliefs that drug use is socially inappropriate. The 
study surveyed students prior to their participation in the program in 
seventh grade and again after the completion of the program.

Kleber said the new curriculum could be considered "a total overhaul" of 
the existing program and said that the volume of criticism of DARE was, in 
part, responsible for many of the changes being tested.

"If we didn't change, then you should be critical," he said.

Some skeptics are unconvinced of the early findings of the Akron study.

"It's like 'new and improved' Tide. How much has really changed? It's just 
cosmetic," said Dr. Richard Clayton, a University of Kentucky researcher 
who helped to author a 10-year study of DARE's fifth-grade program that 
concluded that DARE had no effect on drug consumption.

"As a scientist, I'd be hesitant to cite some press release. It's just not 
evidence. The results of the Akron study are not in," he said.

"The way science is done is that you do the study, get your results and 
then submit those to a peer reviewed journal for approval. There is 
insufficient evidence to go to the bank and say that DARE works," Clayton said.

However, a spokesperson for the study said the timing of the release is 
intentional and does not compromise the validity of the science. "We 
released the data in this way because DARE officers want to be kept up to 
date on how things are going and, because of the interest in the DARE 
program, we thought some of the information would probably leak anyway," 
said Jessica Nickel.

Other DARE supporters are unconcerned with the latest research and numbers. 
According to Ozark Deputy Police Chief Eddie Henderson, DARE is an 
indispensable anti-drug tool.

"We couldn't do without DARE," he said.

Henderson, who has taught the class, said that Ozark started a DARE program 
in 1991 and calls the program "great." Ozark's DARE program targets the 

"One good positive thing about it is that it teaches respect for police 
officers," he said. "We try to maintain a non-adversarial relationship so 
they can get a look at us from something besides a bad situation. We try to 
be a positive influence."

Henderson said he had anecdotal evidence of DARE's success.

"We've had some students come back from college and say that the things we 
taught in DARE helped them say no to drugs," he said.

According to Kumpfer, a former director of the Center for Drug and 
Substance Abuse Prevention, even if DARE has a few positive results, it's 
not the best option for school districts.

"The DARE program has been tested by a number of independent investigators 
and found to be not very effective. You could say that it has some small 
effectiveness, but primarily in improving the image of the police 
department and it does very little to reduce drug and alcohol abuse. There 
are much more effective prevention programs," she said.

According to DARE America, DARE operates in 80 percent of United States 
school districts.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens