Funding Cuts Put DARE Effort on Endangered List 

Funding Cuts Put DARE Effort on Endangered List 
Posted by FoM on April 14, 2002 at 11:01:07 PT
By Karen Jeffrey, Staff Writer
Source: Cape Cod Times 
In another era Meaghan Sennott might have described the Sandwich program as "the cat's meow" or even "groovy." But as a fifth-grader in today's world Meaghan sums the program up in a word amplified by an adverb. "Awesome, totally awesome."It is a view shared by her parents, her friends and many teachers across the Cape. It was the view of more than 100 parents and grandparents who attended a DARE graduation Friday at the Mattacheese Middle School in West Yarmouth.
But it is not an outlook necessarily shared by everyone, particularly those in state government who hold the purse strings.Next year DARE programs in Massachusetts - which involved an estimated 240,000 students across the state this year - could become a thing of the past.In January, acting Gov. Jane Swift axed the $4.3 million DARE budget from her fiscal 2003 state budget proposal of about $220 billion. It was one of the smaller cuts - including cuts to anti-smoking efforts, charter school student reimbursements and aid to towns for public works projects - to close a projected $2 billion budget shortfall.Around the state, legislators are warning DARE supporters not to be too optimistic about funding in light of the looming state budget crisis."There is nothing concrete - not yet anyway - but a lot of programs are likely to be cut," said Michael Karath, aide to state Rep. Demetrius Atsalis, D-Hyannis. "The House is just starting to put a budget together and we expect there will be a lot of programs knocking on the door asking not to be cut," Karath said."Who would want to cut a program like this? DARE has been very popular among Cape schools," he said. "But we won't know what will happen until discussions get underway."Karath noted that funding for community policing grants - used by many municipal departments to fund police-school programs other than DARE - could also be at risk this year. Some Cape departments use community policing grants to put officers in high schools and elementary schools.Cape police chiefs are saying now they hope the Legislature will see fit to fund DARE. If that does not happen, "this might be our last DARE graduation," Yarmouth Chief Peter Carnes said Friday at the Mattacheese Middle School. Broader use and scope Despite its possible expendability on Beacon Hill, the program's widespread popularity among schools, police, parents and students is undeniable.DARE, the acronym stands for Drug Awareness Resistance Education, was begun in 1983 as an anti-drug program in California. Since then, the program has changed "to reflect the changing concerns of our communities," said Ralph Lochridge spokesman for DARE-America, the national organization that oversees training and curriculum development."There continues to be an anti-drug component in the curriculum, but we've broadened the program to address issues like tobacco use, violence, gun safety, domestic violence, gang involvement and date rape - whatever is most appropriate for a particular community," he said.DARE has spread to 54 countries and involves 36 million children worldwide. The program is used in 80 percent of public schools in this country, and in every school district on the Cape and islands. From the start, the program has involved bringing police officers into classrooms to teach students.DARE offers a curriculum used by police officers to teach a variety of subjects, aimed at increasing self-esteem, self awareness and negotiating skills. Students engage in role playing, create skits, and write essays and reports.Professional curriculum writers map out the activities, in concert with educators and police officers, according to Lochridge. Cuts jeopardize programs Across the country, DARE programs are funded in a variety of ways including public and private grants.In Massachusetts, DARE is funded through grants from the state Executive Office of Public Safety. Money is disbursed to police departments through the Governor's Alliance Against Drugs.Cape and islands police departments received a total of $148,256 in DARE grants for the current year. These ranged from the $155 given to Truro, to the $15,000 given to larger towns such as Falmouth.How the money is used varies by police department. Yarmouth, for example, got a $9,700 grant and uses the money to pay for other officers to fill in shifts when Officer Richard White is teaching three days a week at the Mattacheese Middle School. Sandwich got a $15,000 grant that is used to assign Officer Brian Bondarek full-time to Sandwich schools.Bondarek, whose enthusiasm for working with children appears boundless, said discussions about "how to say no to drugs, and how to cope with peer pressure are certainly part of our program" in Sandwich fifth-grades.But, he added, "I try to be flexible, I try to take advantage of those teachable moments. This year for example, the topic of divorce came up because several kids had parents going through that. So we dealt with that by talking about differences between people and how we cope with our feelings."Another time, cancer became the subject of discussion when fifth-graders learned that Bondarek's daughter had just successfully finished treatments for cancer. This, along with the knowledge that "there are high cancer rates in our community was something that had the kids worried," he said."It was one of those 'teachable moments' - and maybe the kids had more to teach me about their worlds at that moment than I had to teach them," he said."When I was growing up in Sandwich, my television had three channels, theirs have 300. We didn't have cellphones. We didn't hear about high cancer rates. It's a different world for this generation," he said."DARE is one part of our overall school program," said Sandwich Chief Michael Miller, who worries about what will happen if his department loses DARE funding."We definitely want to continue having police work with the schools and in the classroom, but I just don't know at this point what we would specifically do with our fifth-grade program, now a DARE position," he said.DARE pays for Bondarek to work with fifth-graders regularly, although he does visit periodically with first- and third-grade classes, as part of the DARE program. Sandwich also assigns a school resource officer to the high school, paid for out of the department's general budget."This is a program that has generated tremendous parent support and is considered a real resource for the school system," Miller said of his department's focus on placing officers in schools. Joanne Sykes, who teaches health to seventh- and eighth-graders in Sandwich agrees. "DARE is much more than an anti-drug program. "It is far more encompassing than that - in the '80s and '90s, the program was adjusted to include discussion and means of coping with violence. Then came the issue of bullying," she said. "What I have seen come into the classroom more recently is a discussion of tolerance and diversity - all because of the DARE program."Sykes said it adds to a student's experience to participate in discussions and hear perspectives "from a professional other than a teacher."She adds, that bringing someone other than a teacher into the classroom also "takes the pressure off for students. They are not being graded. It is something different for them. Even if I were to say, 'You're not going to get a grade on this.' I'm still the teacher." Debating the benefits Sykes is disturbed by what she perceives as yet another cut in education programs - "that's what it is, if the DARE program is not funded. I don't see any proposals that suggest using the DARE money for other educational programs. So how does cutting it help?"She is aware of recent studies critical of DARE, which claim the program has done little to prevent drug use in older students.Last year a report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse stated that 61 percent of the nation's high school students said drugs were kept in or used at their schools. The same report concluded that DARE was having very little extended impact on students.Sykes points out that these studies "are narrowly focused on substance abuse and DARE has much broader range than that. If anything, those studies point to a need to have something for the upper grades in the way of programs or support for students. "Yarmouth's Chief Carnes responds to the critical studies by noting, "There is no way to realistically measure how many students chose not to use drugs." Lochridge said his 25 years of working, first as a federal drug investigator and then for DARE, "leads me to conclude that 10 percent of kids are probably going to use drugs, no matter what we do for them. Another 10 percent will never use drugs regardless of what they hear in school. It is that 80 percent in the middle you want to reach."Parents of students who have gone through DARE programs react similarly.One Sandwich mother noted, "Banks see a lot of checks bounced. Does that mean they should stop teaching math in school?"Mari Sennott, another mother from Sandwich, is a strong supporter of the program after seeing how much her daughter Meaghan enjoyed it.In January when Meaghan and her friends learned of Swift's proposal to cut funding, they began a petition drive, gathering signatures from fellow students at the Wing School in Sandwich, from adults in their neighborhoods and finally from Sandwich selectmen. It might have helped that Meaghan's father is Selectman Hank Sennott, said his wife with a laugh. The petitions have been sent to the governor's office.What did not escape the parents in this case is that their daughter got a lesson in civics."They saw something they didn't like about how the government is working and they decided to change it," said Sennott. Source: Cape Cod Times (MA)Author: Karen Jeffrey, Staff WriterPublished: April 14, 2002Copyright: 2002 Cape Cod TimesContact: letters capecodonline.comWebsite: DARE Archives
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Comment #1 posted by Jose Melendez on April 15, 2002 at 07:18:54 PT:
truth infects
from: the growing use of Ritalin proves, school officials aren't against drugs themselves, even those that substantially alter consciousness; they're merely out to detect illegal drugs, which a cynical high-school debater might define as any drugs that they don't dispense themselves.But, really, what do I care? I'm home free. The principal of vice found nothing on me. Was there something to find that day? I'll never tell. I don't have to tell, but I pity the kids who do, even the innocent. The innocent most of all. Walter Kirn is the literary editor of GQ. His most recent book is "Up in the Air," a novel. 
Arrest Prohibition 
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