Pubdate: Sun, 16 May 1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle
Contact:  http://www.chron.com/
Forum: http://www.chron.com/content/hcitalk/index.html
Author: Thom Marshall

MAYOR TAKES ISSUE WITH DARE-ING

I GOT ANOTHER LETTER from our mayor.

He writes when he disagrees with something that shows up here on the edge
of the page. This one responds to comments of last Sunday about the city's
Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, program.

As usual, I'm pleased to run as much of the letter as possible, even if it
takes up most of my space. I figure one of these days, in exchange, I'll
ask the mayor to let me help him run the city for a day or two.

Dear Thom,

... I'm almost positive you missed the astonishing impact this powerful
program has on our children.

Piloted in 1987, The Houston Police Department's DARE program has expanded
to become one of the largest DARE programs in the world. It is taught at
257 public elementary schools and 53 middle schools in the Houston
Independent School District as well as in 12 surrounding school districts.

He's against `defeatist posture'

You suggested we "might be better off doing away with DARE altogether ... "
in favor of funding programs aimed at getting kids off drugs. I most
strenuously disagree with that defeatist posture. ...

As far as results of DARE, let me pose this question. Can you count the
number of children who said no to drugs, because we began educating them
early through DARE? Can you really know what the drug problem might have
grown to if these children were not part of this early education effort?
You can't count those numbers, but you can walk through an elementary
school hallway and watch children wearing their DARE T-shirts and becoming
friends with their DARE officers. You can see the expressions on their
faces as they explain to you why they won't be doing drugs and what their
officer has taught them. ...

There are always methods of improving our programs and I endorse those
efforts aimed at continual improvement of DARE. Last August we released the
results of a study of the DARE program conducted by Dr. Bruce Gay from the
University of Houston-Downtown Department of Social Science. ... As a
result of the study, DARE has designed enhancements that will update the
program, increase its effectiveness and strengthen the anti-drug message --
all measures directly related to increasing the program's success.

Four areas of improvements have been targeted: expanded exposure, parental
involvement, reinforcement of DARE objectives through additional programs
and professional evaluations.

Under the expanded exposure portion of the plan, more than 17,000
fourth-grade students will receive the DARE curriculum, which is currently
designed to begin in fifth grade as we strive to reach our children at a
younger age. Additionally, there will be an emphasis on older students by
adding a curriculum designed for 10th-graders. The new plan seeks to
broaden parental involvement and education programs designed specifically
for adults. To reinforce the DARE message, the plan calls for other Houston
programs, such as anti-tobacco and smoking programs, to add the DARE
program to their curriculum. A proposal for yearly review by a trained
evaluator will ensure that the program objectives are met.

`Education is the panacea'

I support the four areas of improvement just as I continue to support DARE,
because I believe it works and is effective in delivering the message that
illegal drug use is unacceptable.

I also know that no matter how vigorous our efforts, there will be those
who become drug users. It is almost impossible, however, to count the
numbers of children who might have become users or who would have become
users had they not been exposed to the DARE program.

As I have stated before, education is the panacea. Education empowers our
children to make wise decisions. I will never be willing to throw away our
education efforts, not in any arena and never when they involve children.

Most sincerely, Mayor Lee P. Brown

The mayor writes a nice letter, doesn't he? I side with the many studies
that cast doubt on the effectiveness of DARE, and with the cities that have
eliminated it. I believe the money should go to more effective programs.
And the part of that study last August that I recall best is this quote
from Professor Gay: "There is very little compelling evidence to suggest
that the primary goal of the DARE program is being reached at a significant
level." But despite how we disagree, his honor remains cordial.

I appreciate that. A lot of people can get real unpleasant when opinions
collide.

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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart