Pubdate: Thu, 01 Nov 2007
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Lee Enterprises
Author: Ronald Hess
Note: Retired Sgt. Hess taught D.A.R.E in the Napa schools for more 
than 15 years.


Why D.A.R.E? The Oct. 7 article, "Upvalley schools get funds to battle
drug use," has prompted this first-time letter from me.

The article relates that statistics show the students of St. Helena
and Calistoga are at a frightening number in their use of drugs and
alcohol. Further, these statistics are significantly higher than the
statewide averages. Shirin Vakharia of the Napa County Department of
Health and Human Services revealed that drug use is dropping across
California, however St. Helena and Calistoga students have a high rate
of drug use and binge drinking.

Why is it then, that Napa, Vintage and Justin-Siena High schools, with
a combined student population of more than 3,000, have statistics that
are nowhere near the stats of the Upvalley students? The article
states that it takes fewer kids to influence those "norms," or "there
is an increasing number of low-income students" as the reason why the
Upvalley schools have a greater drug-use problem. These reasons are

Here are some other possibilities: Napa City and county have a very
strict law enforcement policy - zero tolerance for teen drinking - and
the following programs: Aldea's mandatory drug awareness program for
drug and alcohol offenders (a 12-week rehabilitation process); the
city of Napa youth diversion program (where first-time offenders are
placed on a strict program and monitored), this program has been
reduced to a minimum and is on the verge of elimination; G.R.E.A.T
(Gang Resistance Education and Training) was taught to seventh-graders
and appeared to be successful but was discontinued; and D.A.R.E, which
has been teaching kids about making good decisions about drugs,
alcohol, tobacco and gangs for more than 17 years. On Monday, Oct. 15,
the principals of Napa Valley Unified School District determined
whether they wanted D.A.R.E to stay. It remains in force in the county
schools. The Napa Police Department has suspended the D.A.R.E program
for this year. There is a possibility of restarting the program,
depending on the principals' meeting. Is D.A.R.E effective or not? It
has been said by educators and law enforcement officials that D.A.R.E
is not an evidence-based preventative program. There are insufficient
statistics to prove its effectiveness.

Recently I was approached by the mother of one of my D.A.R.E kids. She
came to say thank you. She said that she had been concerned that her
ninth-grade son might be influenced to drink alcohol. She asked her
son if he had been pressured to do so. He told his mother that he had
made a promise to himself in D.A.R.E to not drink alcohol until he is
old enough, and that he is going to keep his promise. I realize that
all ninth graders are not this responsible, but I do know that all
D.A.R.E graduates know the harmful effects of alcohol and the negative
consequences when the wrong decision is made. D.A.R.E is taught in the
fifth grade because it is better to teach the children good decision
tools before they go to middle school.

St. Helena and Calistoga eliminated D.A.R.E several years ago. Was the
St. Helena and Calistoga teen drug use as high then as it is now? I
suspect it was not. Is this an evidence-based statistic? Does D.A.R.E
work? The statistics of St. Helena and Calistoga, compared to those of
Napa, may hold some evidential value.

If D.A.R.E is eliminated without a better program, what will be the
consequences? I believe the city of Napa does not have to look far for
the answer. St. Helena and Calistoga have wonderful, terrific teens
who make good decisions, as do Napa teens. Often, we put the emphasis
on the negative parts of behavior instead of the positive. All the
kids in the Napa Valley have the power to control their behavior in a
positive way. Programs should focus on all kids, not just the ones who
make wrong choices. I hope St. Helena and Calistoga's new drug
awareness programs are successful and I hope to see D.A.R.E back in
the NVUSD schools. Remember drug and alcohol awareness is only
successful when there is strong support from parents and families.

To the St. Helena and Calistoga teens: I would rather read an article about
how you are the highest in the state in academics and lowest for drug and
alcohol use.

Ronald Hess
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