Pubdate: Sun, 07 Dec 2008
Source: Battle Creek Enquirer (MI)
Copyright: 2008 Battle Creek Enquirer
Author: Stephanie Antonian Rutherford
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)


Going Beyond 'D.A.R.E.'

Seventeen-year-old Junetta Brown has witnessed how quickly some of her
peers fall into the hazy world of substance abuse.

"I see a lot of kids get into drinking and drugs, because it's just
easy," said Brown, a senior at Battle Creek Central High School.

Brown said she has reasons for saying no to drugs, but she didn't get
them from a classroom.

"We all went through D.A.R.E. and learned about drugs in health class,
but it really just focuses on telling us 'say no' or that it will hurt
your body," Brown said. "That's not real life. We are out in real life
and we need more than that to get us to not do drugs, because kids are
still doing it."

Brown is among the millions of students across America who have passed
through a variety of anti-substance abuse programming in middle school
and high school classrooms.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which includes a component
known as Safe and Drug-Free Schools, every public school is required
to provide some kind of drug-prevention education.

Every year, schools nationwide pour millions of dollars into
substance-abuse education and programming. But how effective are they?
And what are local schools doing to educate teens on the dangerous
effects of drugs, tobacco and alcohol?


According to Monitoring the Future, a study funded by the National
Institute on Drug Abuse, illicit drug use is up among students between
eighth and 12th grade. In 1991, 62 percent had used illicit drugs. In
2007, the number jumped to 77 percent.

And with numbers rising, more schools are ramping up their drug
programming, despite budget restrictions.

In 2006, U.S. schools spent close to $1 billion for DARE, or Drug
Abuse Resistance Education, the nation's largest school-based
drug-prevention program. The 16-week program, which is taught mainly
at the middle school level, brings local police officers into
classrooms to give lessons and share off-the-street experiences to
show the consequences of drug use.

Though DARE, which is used in 75 percent of the nation's schools, is
one of the many popular programs criticized for not being effective
against drug use, a 2006 study by the University of North Carolina
showed it wasn't necessarily the programs that posed a problem, but
how well a school utilized them.

The study, which also surveyed 104 school districts in 11 states,
reported that one out of three districts that used research-based
anti-drug programs used them effectively. The biggest roadblocks, the
study showed, was a lack of funding and a tight staff.

Despite waning school budgets, Cristina Eyre, assistant principal at
Harper Creek Middle School, said her school hosts numerous
anti-substance abuse assemblies and special events, such as Wise
Choices and Rachel's Challenge. The rest is covered as a part of the
district's health curriculum.

"Students have responded well and wanted to do more to participate,"
Eyre said. "We do a good job with what we do, but we can always do
more to improve upon our efforts. I do not think that we can ever do


According to a recent study released by the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, 89 percent of principals and 65 percent of
teachers polled thought their school grounds were drug-free, compared
to only 34 percent of students. Only 5 percent of principals thought
students drank alcohol on school grounds, but 33 percent of students
at the same schools saw it differently.

In a survey of principals and guidance counselors at Pennfield, Harper
Creek, Lakeview and Battle Creek Public schools, school officials
noted that drugs and alcohol were not a major problem on campus - but
preventing student substance abuse was high on their list of priorities.

According to officials at Pennfield, Harper Creek, Lakeview and Battle
Creek Public schools, a combination of anti-drug lessons are built
into health curriculum, drug programming and regular assemblies
related to substance abuse.

Some of the programs employed locally are: DARE, Legacy of Hope, Wise
Choices, Plant the Promise, Drug Resistance Team, Where Everybody
Belongs, Great Choices, Teen Heart, Red Ribbon Week and Above the Influence.

Having a variety of programs is important, local school officials
agreed, because it can reach more students and can help the message
not seem monotonous.

"Youth and teens learn by being exposed to a variety of messages and
by becoming advocates, helping others and telling the story," said
Wendy Meyer, communications coordinator for the Lakeview School
District. "The more exposure they have to these messages and the more
opportunities we give them to become advocates themselves, the greater
the chance they have of developing healthy habits and making good choices."


But to get the right program, school officials need to first know what
their students need, said Brown. Her classmates agreed.

"It's a lot different out here than they realize. There is a lot of
pressure," said Stephanie Salazar, 18, a senior at Battle Creek
Central High School. "Some of the ways they tell you to say no, or the
reasons they give you not to do it, they don't really apply anymore."

For students, that can include giving them a real-life reason that
drugs can specifically hurt them. Central sophomore Billy Vines, 16,
and 14-year-old freshman Khilon Samuel said for them, knowing how
drugs can mess up their athletics was a major factor in their
decisions to abstain.

"Like, learning how much smoking messes up my lungs and my breathing,"
Samuel said. "I'm an athlete and I just can't have that."

Amy Bridges, a counselor at W.K. Kellogg Middle School, said assessing
programming and finding a good fit is key to finding success.

"I believe we are working diligently to educate and provide as many
prevention programs and strategies as possible to influence students
to refrain from risky behaviors," Bridges said. "We are always looking
for effective programming which targets helping students remain
healthy and teaching youth to make good choices."

Students polled at Central said some of the more effective programs
have been those with the most "direct hit," such as assemblies in
which former alcoholics, drug addicts and gang members speak to
students about their experiences.

"I think schools are doing OK, but they should do more, because there
are a lot of kids getting caught up," Brown said. "We need a message
that is gonna hit us hard and make us stop and think. Whatever it takes."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin