D.A.R.E. stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. This program began in the state of California in 1983 where the police department and school officials devised a plan to combat the growing problem of gangs and drug use.
In 1988 the City of Washington integrated the D.A.R.E. Program into the Washington School District curriculum. The program begins in the third grade, and is a five class lesson plan that deals with not just the dangers of drugs, but also safety skills, how to recognize situations that could pose potential danger, and how to avoid peer pressure temptations. The program also addresses conflict resolution without resorting to violence.
The targeted core group are fifth grade students. This program entails 17 weeks of classroom instruction held one day a week for a full semester. The students work together in teams, solve problems, and learn the harmful effects of drug use. They are taught about the consequences of making choices in life, whether they be good or bad choices. There is discussion of how peer pressure enters into decision making. There is a large focus on self-esteem, and students learn how to handle stressful situations in non-violent ways.
D.A.R.E. is also taught in Junior High at the eighth grade level. This lesson plan is geared toward career planning and decision making. The students learn to recognize how important it is to develop goals and what it takes to accomplish those goals. We stress that the primary method for success is to plan for the future and emphasize how important a good education is.
Although D.A.R.E. is primarily a drug education program, it also allows the students to interact with police officers on a personal basis. The students learn that the officers are there to help them and care about them and their future. Officers facilitate cooperative problem solving, and help students meet their needs for affection, recognition, respect, and self-esteem.
The last function of D.A.R.E. is a graduation assembly where all students who participated are recognized for their accomplishments. This event not only involves the students and teachers, but the parents as well.
The program is taught in all schools within the Washington city limits by certified police officers. The officers undergo 80 hours of rigorous training provided by the Missouri State Highway Patrol in order to teach the third and fifth grade classes, and an additional 24 hours of training to teach the Junior High program. Selected officers are extremely motivated and have the desire to work with children. D.A.R.E. is truly a labor of love.