Pubdate: Mon, 29 Oct 2007
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Lee Enterprises
Author: Jillian Jones
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Youth)


DARE, one recent casualty of city budget cuts, may be gone for good,
depending on the outcome of Napa school officials' talks this year to
discuss the needs and effectiveness of the program.

"There is certainly a strong chance of phasing out DARE," said Napa
Valley Unified School District Superintendent John Glaser. DARE, Drug
Abuse Resistance Education, brings police officers into local
elementary schools to teach children about drugs and violence. While
the program has been in place here for 19 years, those children may be
forced to find their information elsewhere, as city budget cuts
eliminated the program in nearly all elementary schools this year.

What happens next year is the topic of conversation among school
officials and police department representatives, whose priority is to
continue efforts, in one form or another, to bring officers into
elementary classrooms for prevention education.

Jeanne Title, NVUSD prevention education coordinator, said the
district will turn the city budget cuts into an opportunity to take a
closer look at the effectiveness of prevention programs in place, the
needs of each school and the resources available to them.

"What we're asking people to do is take a look at what is available
and tell us what makes the most sense," said Glaser.

The city of Napa's decision to cut DARE may come under review again.
After the city made several cuts to balance the budget, officials
discovered tax revenues were higher than expected, and some of the cut
programs or personnel may be restored. City leaders are seeking public
input on what programs should see revitalized, and it is not clear
whether DARE will prove to be a high priority.

Meanwhile, a committee of elementary school principals, Title and Sgt.
Terry Gonsalves of the Napa Police Department is holding talks to
evaluate the needs of schools and make a determination on what course
of action should be taken next year.

"We are looking at how the face of police officers in schools can best
meet the needs of schools," Title said. "We are looking at the
increase of gang activity issues, especially at the elementary level;
and the need at schools to have more violence prevention information,
as well."

The committee, she said, which has already held two meetings, "seems
like a natural evolution to improve what we already have."

Amid debate over the effectiveness of DARE, which is not what Title
calls "research validated," the committee will look toward programs
that are supported statewide and nationally, she said.

Title said the committee is open to all possibilities, but that it is
likely that starting next year schools will offer a different curriculum.

"It might still be DARE. We're not saying no to DARE. We're just not
saying no to something that might be better," she said.

The committee is looking at one research validated approach to
prevention called Asset Development, said Title, which focuses on
"building positive assets in young people."

Another possibility, said Title, is that the program may be offered to
sixth-graders -- instead of fifth -- as it was before the
restructuring of grade levels in middle schools and junior highs.

Regardless of the particular approach, said Title, the link between
officers and students will remain at the heart of prevention education

"The relationship and connection with officers and students is
awesome," she said, "and it goes a long way in prevention. We never
want to underestimate the power of that relationship."

"My interests are that we continue to send strong prevention messages
to kids," said Glaser. "My real interest is that we continue to have a
program that strengthens attitudes and relationships between students
and police officers."

Right now, the committee is working with the elementary schools to
"narrow down what the main pieces are at each school," said Title.
They are conducting surveys with teachers and principals, and may
expand the committee to include teachers on the panel.

Then, she said, "we will talk about which ways we need it to go,"
adding, "It doesn't have to be through the DARE program."

"DARE has served us really well over the years, but it's also an
example of a program that hasn't reassessed in number of years," said
Glaser. "We reassess all programs fairly often, and this is a timely
opportunity to have that discussion."

There is one thing educators and law enforcement all agree on, said
Title, and that is that "prevention is better than afterward having to
deal with results of not preventing things."

Once the committee reaches a decision on which program they want to
implement in schools next year, Glaser said there are two funding
possibilities. "I believe the City is going to look at what kind of
program we want, and I'm guessing two things will be happening. If it
is too expensive, they might urge us to put the brakes on it." The
second possibility, he said, is that "once the program is
conceptualized, and as we begin developing it, they'll be helping us
to shape it."

Title said she expects the committee to reach a decision and begin
implementation of the agreed upon program at the beginning of next
school year.
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MAP posted-by: Derek