Pubdate: Thu, 25 Apr 2002
Source: Racine Journal Times, The (WI)
Copyright: 2002, The Racine Journal Times
Author: Phyllis Sides
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Drug Education)


Kandy Meyers knows first-hand the harm drug addiction and abuse can do to a 

Her mother was a drug addict. "She tried many drugs, then found her 
favorite drug, heroin. Every day was a challenge. I remember being as young 
as 4, trying to get my mom to wake up from an overdose," Meyers said.

After reading criticisms recently about the Drug Abuse Resistance Education 
(D.A.R.E.) program, Meyers decided to spread the word about another 
anti-drug program, Narconon.

Meyers works for Narconon Great Lakes in Chicago and would like to 
establish a rehabilitation center in Racine. She also would like to make 
the group's drug prevention and education program available to the Racine 
Unified School District.

"I saw first-hand what drugs really did. Many children do not see this real 
life example," said Meyers. She and her husband, Thomas, a Racine native, 
moved to Racine about four years ago to raise their family.

Narconon offers a series of presentations for grades two through 12. The 
speakers, many of whom are former addicts, speak from their own experiences 
with drugs and give a realistic picture of drug use.

The presentations do not replace any programs or curricula currently 
offered by the schools.

Delaine Moe, Unified's student assistance and wellness coordinator, works 
with the D.A.R.E. officers in the district. She's not familiar with 
Narconon's drug education program, but she is familiar with D.A.R.E. and 
its results.

"I've only gotten positive feedback from everyone involved, the students, 
the officers, teachers and parents," Moe said. Moe thinks the newspaper 
stories detailing D.A.R.E.'s ineffectiveness didn't present a complete 
picture of the program.

"There are two points they ignore when they do surveys. They don't show 
it's difficult to measure the benefit and outcome of prevention programs. 
The other point is students respond to good teachers and we're fortunate 
the officers here are excellent," Moe said.

While Racine County Sheriff's Department Deputy Steve Sikora is in favor of 
anything that will help steer young people away from drugs, he is against 
using former addicts as speakers in schools. Sikora is one of two D.A.R.E. 
officers working in the school district.

Narconon, founded by William Benitez in 1966, is a non-profit organization 
dedicated to eliminating drug abuse through prevention education and 

Benitez was an inmate at Arizona State Penitentiary when he founded the 
group. He was a heroin addict who couldn't seem to get off drugs using 
traditional methods. After reading books by Scientology founder L. Ron 
Hubbard and corresponding with him, Benitez applied Hubbards' principles to 
his program.

Betsy Kippers, Unified's coordinator of health and physical education, 
reviewed three Narconon videos, "The Truth About Kids and Drugs," "The 
Truth about Drugs," and "Marijuana: The Myth."

The videos are used in areas that don't have trained Narconon speakers, 
said Sue Birkenshaw, public activities supervisor for Narconon 
International in Los Angeles.

"The videos are quite effective. They have sort of a curriculum that goes 
with them for the teacher to use with the videos. The videos and our 
presentations supplement what the schools are doing," Birkenshaw said.

She is working with Meyers to develop speakers in Racine to give 
presentations at schools, businesses and community groups. Narconon 
speakers and professionals from other organizations are trained at the 
group's facility in Oklahoma, Birkenshaw said.

While the overall presentations might teach the students good 
decision-making skills the videos alone do not, Kippers said.

"The speaker is very good. He engages the students, and the facts in the 
anti-drug videos are very good, but they lack one essential piece that 
students have to learn: decision-making skills. In terms of a school 
setting I think there are a lot of good facts, but kids have to learn to 
make good decisions and the videos don't show them how to do that," Kippers 

Meyers admits the videos don't stress decision-making, but that's not their 
purpose. "The videos are to get them to think and ask questions. And 
hopefully, the discussion with the teacher will stress making the right 
decisions," Meyers said.

Initially, Meyers plans to offer the program at the high school level 
because she feels the drug problem is escalating among teens.
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