The Grover Beach Police Department is bringing D.A.R.E. back to city schools, but officials say the new curriculum bears little resemblance to the drug abuse prevention program of the 1980s and ’90s.
“It is more focused on making good choices and teaching the children how to make proper decisions and have a safe and healthy life,” Grover Beach Police Chief John Peters said.
D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, was taught in grade-school classrooms nationwide after its inception by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1983; the original program was boosted by then first lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign.
While the program saw widespread use, a growing number of reports in the 2000s questioned its efficacy.
A 2009 analysis found that teens enrolled in the program “were just as likely to use drugs as were those who received no intervention,” according to Scientific American.
That same article cited a 2002 study that found “a slight tendency” for teens who went through the D.A.R.E. program “to be more likely to drink and smoke than adolescents not exposed to the program.”
Enthusiasm, and funding, for it tapered off in the mid-2000s, including in Grover Beach, Peters said.
“The reason it went away was (a lack of) funding and staffing,” he said.
Now, D.A.R.E.’s curriculum, based on socio-emotional learning theory, “identifies fundamental, basic skills and developmental processes needed for healthy development,” a police department news release announcing the program says.
That includes teaching self-awareness and management, responsible decision-making, understanding others, relationship and communication skills, and handling responsibilities and challenges, Peters said.
While the 10-week course does include a component that promotes tobacco, alcohol and marijuana abstinence, that is just a small part of a larger program, he said. It also includes discussions about bullying and internet safety.
Peters said he’s spoken with other police departments that have noted a positive effect on students. He said Santa Maria recently revived the program, “and they’re teaching the same curriculum.”
“Times have changed,” Peters said. “Now it’s more focused on basically making good citizens.”
The program will be taught in partnership with the Lucia Mar Unified School District and will be taught to sixth-grade students attending Grover Beach Elementary School, Grover Heights Elementary School and Fairgrove Elementary School. The first three classes were taught Friday.
Peters said his officers have been focused on youth outreach, including participating in Red Ribbon Week, Read Across America and bicycle safety courses.
“This is just another extension of those events to get the officers to be approachable to the children, he said.
More information about the program is available at dare.org/keepin-it-real-elementary-school-curriculum.