Do drug resistance program's benefits outweigh the costs Never one to shirk from an unpleasant duty, Public Safety Chief John Wagner said something this week that has crossed many people's minds but that few have cared to voice: DARE's day may be done.
The drug and alcohol avoidance program has been in place at schools around the state for many years, but it has never been clear that it achieved its goal of strengthening students' resistance to drugs. It might be early to say that the program should be curtailed, but it is not too early to begin discussion of the idea.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education focuses on sixth-grade students, using police officers to spread the word that danger and personal damage is to be found in drug and alcohol use. It is an important -- and certainly accurate -- message for young people to hear. What some have wondered in recent years, though, is whether hearing that message repeatedly has really done much to curb drug and alcohol abuse. And it is certainly questionable whether it cannot be delivered just as effectively in health classes and other education forums.
For police departments in smaller cities such as Fergus Falls, DARE can also be a burden because during the school year it takes 50 percent or more of a designated officer's work time to conduct the program. That's time which could conceivably be put into other police work.
No one argues with DARE's message -- or argues that young people shouldn't get the facts on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. But to ask whether the benefits of DARE outweigh the costs -- and to wonder whether DARE is the most effective forum for delivering the message in the first place -- is nothing but reasonable. Local police certainly have a sense for the program's success, as should middle school teachers. Both groups ought to have some say in DARE's future, because they are the experts on the scene.
School and city leaders ought to give the question of DARE some consideration during the coming school year, then be prepared to firmly back the program or to salute its conclusion before the 2001-2002 school year begins.
--The Daily Journal of Fergus Falls
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