Pubdate: Sun, 29 Aug 2004
Source: Fort Pierce Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2004 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Will Greenlee
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Youth)


PORT ST. LUCIE -- Wearing a crisp blue uniform, Officer Paul Griffith 
walked in front of a Manatee Elementary School chalkboard and delivered an 
animated lesson to more than 20 first-graders about everything from stop 
signs to when to call 911.

"I'm going to talk to you about rules and why it's important to follow 
rules and how rules keep us safe," he said. "Mom and Dad don't just come up 
with these rules because they're bored, they come up with these rules 
because they want you to be safe and so do we."

D.A.R.E., an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is taught locally 
to fifth-grade students, but a reduction in the program's length is 
allowing officers time to reach out to kindergarten through fourth-grade 
students, said Griffith, one of two D.A.R.E. officers.

"If you start young and you can keep the kids off the drugs and keep them 
from getting involved in violent activities, then they hopefully will not 
have a criminal history," he said.

Kindergartners are given "basic safety" lessons, such as being aware of 
their surroundings and the importance of crossing streets at crosswalks.

"This is their first introduction to law enforcement, in reality," Griffith 
said. "They get to meet us and see that we're personable and that you can 
come talk to a police officer and not to be afraid of us, just because we 
have a gun."

At Manatee, Griffith, who's been involved in D.A.R.E. for five years, 
frequently asked for student participation in his discussions and sprinkled 
humor into anecdotes.

Noting the importance of listening for trains at railroad crossings, he 
asked, "Do we need to do it like the Indians and the cowboys used to do it, 
put our ear down to the track and listen for vibrations? No, we don't want 
to put our ear on a railroad track, we want to go ahead and just listen. .. 
There's no train, go ahead and cross the track."

Topics discussed in first-through fourth-grade classes include making good 
decisions and considering the consequences of actions.

"That's the basis for our D.A.R.E. program that we teach in fifth grade," 
Griffith said. "We're building onto that block. It all starts at 
kindergarten and works its way up."

Following Griffith's presentation, Carl-Michel Fevrius, 6, said one thing 
he took away from the lesson related to 911.

"If you have an emergency, you can call 911," he said, sitting in a blue 
chair on a checkerboard floor.

Officer Jerry Cantalupo said police locally began the D.A.R.E. program in 
1986, though, at the time, they divided up responsibilities at city schools 
with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office. Grants later allowed police to 
handle the 10 elementary schools in Port St. Lucie.

In shortening the D.A.R.E. program, Griffith said, some topics, such as 
gangs, were removed because they might not be completely relevant to fifth- 
and sixth-grade students.

"They took things that they didn't think were applicable to that age range, 
moved them up to the middle school grade age, so that it will apply a 
little bit better to them, it will be easier for them to understand," he said.
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