The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program was founded in Los Angeles in 1983. In this program, a trained police officer leads a series of classroom lessons for children in kindergarten through 12th grade about the dangers of illicit drugs, ways to resist peer pressure, and strategies to live a drug-free life. D.A.R.E. has been implemented in 43 countries and in 75% of the schools in the United States, reaching millions of school children each year.
D.A.R.E. officers are selected based on their background. Those who have interest in and experience with young people are then provided 80 hours of specialized training that covers topics such as child development, classroom management, and teaching strategies. Officers then receive an additional 40 hours of training about the D.A.R.E. curriculum.
D.A.R.E. has been held up as an example of community policing, in that officers are interacting in a proactive way with citizens. The U.S. Department of Justice has stated that among other things, D.A.R.E. helps communities by humanizing the police to young people, opening the lines of communication, and facilitating dialogue between schools, parents, and police.
The D.A.R.E. website provides information for children, parents and caregivers, and officers about various drugs and their effects. Additionally, it provides information about D.A.R.E.-sponsored events. Further, the website describes the nonprofit organization D.A.R.E. America, which provides officer training and resources to communities to augment the basic D.A.R.E. program.
Although D.A.R.E. has been widely adopted and is beloved by educators and police alike, research has not necessarily supported the contention that it is an effective means to prevent drug use. The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report in 2003 that assessed the findings from six long-term evaluations of D.A.R.E. The report concluded that D.A.R.E. graduates were no less likely to report drug use than were nongraduates. Two studies found that D.A.R.E.-graduate students held stronger negative attitudes about drugs in the short term, but that the effect faded over time. The biggest criticism directed at D.A.R.E. is that the program has made drug abuse seem more common than it actually is. Faced with growing criticism, D.A.R.E. officials announced the program was being revamped in 2001. The new program uses a social norms approach, focusing on altering students’ perceptions of how many students use drugs. This strategy stands in contrast to the previous “Just say no” approach.
- D.A.R.E.: http://www.dare.com/
- DARE admits failure. (n.d.). Common Sense for Drug Policy. Retrieved from http://www.csdp.org/news/news/darerevised.htm
- Zernike, K. (2001, February 15). DARE drug-resistance campaign, called ineffective, is being retooled. Common Sense for Drug Policy. Retrieved from http://www.mapinc.org/newscsdp/v01/n277/a07.html