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Column: District 518 continuing D.A.R.E. tradition

District 518

WORTHINGTON -- Many people are familiar with the D.A.R.E program -- what it is and what it represents. For many of us, we can look back on our schooling and fondly remember our very own D.A.R.E officers (or, in my case, "Officer Friendly"). To this day I still don't remember his real name, but what I do remember is his presence in our classroom. I recall looking up to him and thinking how cool it was to have a cop in our classroom teaching us to "just say NO."

For some, D.A.R.E may be an unfamiliar program that not everyone has had the opportunity to be exposed to. For those of you who are familiar, let's take a trip down memory lane. For those of you who are not, I'd like to introduce you.

D.A.R.E was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and is now being implemented in 75 percent of our nation's school districts, including District 518, St. Mary's and Worthington Christian School. The program offers curriculum from kindergarten through high school and is designed to be taught by police officers who have the training and experience not only to communicate the importance of Drug Abuse Resistance, but also to provide an Education about making safe and responsible decisions.

Currently in Worthington, D.A.R.E is taught in fifth and seventh grades. The fifth-grade program is a 10-week program meeting once a week, while the seventh-grade program is 10 days long but meets everyday. Due to the large number of students and classrooms, D.A.R.E is a team effort for Officer Honius and I. Officer Honius has been a certified D.A.R.E instructor for 13 years and brings valuable experience to his classrooms.

For many years, the focus of D.A.R.E was strictly on resisting drugs and living a violence-free life. However, a new curriculum has been implemented within the last year. While the new curriculum still addresses drugs and violence, it is more focused on teaching social learning of life skills and their role in risk assessment and decision making. It includes, but is not limited to, drug resistance strategies most commonly and effectively used by adolescents and communication competence. There are also lessons on peer pressure, bullying and stress, just to name a few.

Many people ask: Does the D.A.R.E. program actually work? While there are studies done that support both the positive and the negative, I affirm that it does.

While I can't provide you with facts or numbers to show how many kids resisted drugs because of the program, I can tell you this: DARE provides an opportunity for students and police officers to build positive relationships with one another. It keeps police officers in our schools and interacting with our students. And if only one kid says no to drugs, chooses to live a violence-free life or is more capable of making safe and responsible choice, then I'd say not only does it work, but it's worth it.

Worthington Police Department Officer Jacki Dawson is District 518's school resource officer.