Does DARE really work?

Published 10:10 am Thursday, August 2, 2018

I’ll never forget the day I listened to a speaker at a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) graduation ceremony at a local elementary school.

He was a law enforcement officer, an SRO at a high school, and told the story of finding marijuana on a student. He said he started asking around, and came up with his own statistics.

I don’t remember the exact numbers, but they were startling in not only the large number of high school students who had tried marijuana, but also in the numbers of those who smoke the illegal weed on a regular basis.

I thought to myself at the time: I’ll bet every single one of those high school students found with marijuana had been through the DARE program. Watching the numbers of students who later succomb to the peer pressure of trying drugs continue to rise, it was obvious that DARE wasn’t doing the job it is touted to accomplish. The officer didn’t mean to, but said so himself in that graduation speech.

Sure, I’ve heard the argument that if it stops one single child from trying illegal drugs, it’s worth it. That may be so, but are there other ways to spend our resources that would keep even more children from falling into that trap? It sure is worth investigating.

Although I question whether DARE really stops kids from trying drugs later on in life, I still support the program. It brings police officers into the schools to meet students. Way too often, children only hear about police officers at their home, and what they hear isn’t glowing. It could be a small as getting nervous and saying as much when a state trooper follows your vehicle, but remember, little ears – impressionable ears –  are listening.

DARE does teach children that police officers are people, too. It teaches the children they can trust officers, and that police officers really do care about them.

I do think it is important for law enforcement – that includes the district attorney’s office and others – to let students know they care, and to teach them the law. Recent articles in the Enterprise Record prove that such interactions work.

Last week, there was an article about a man convicted of luring middle school girls into an inappropriate relationship via the internet. He was caught after a presentation at a local school by law enforcement. One of the girls told what had been happening after hearing that presentation.

There is another article about an elementary age girl, who while listening to a presentation about sexual predators, became uneasy. The teacher noticed, talked to the child, and the perpetrator was arrested and convicted. Good for that teacher.

We need more programs such as this. Child molestors are the scum of the earth, most everyone can agree on that. Drugs can – and have – ruined many lives. Children need to know that. They need to see that. But if a program isn’t providing results, it is worth looking at a better method.

Last week, I wrote that Calvin Ijames may have been the first black person ever elected to an office in Davie County. I said “may have” because there often is something we don’t know.

He wasn’t. John Brock set me straight. So did Magalene Gaither.

The Rev. Thomas Stone Holman was previously elected to the board of education, Mrs. Gaither reported. Avery Foster had been elected constable, Mr. Brock reported. I remember “Mr. Avery” being the constable, but didn’t know it was an elected office. I don’t remember Mr. Holman.

Pay attention, and you’ll learn something new every day.

And by the way, Avery Foster was the first black sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina. It’s in the state’s archives, so surely I won’t be corrected on that one. We’ll see.

– Mike Barnhardt