"The key thing that has changed is officers are coaches instead of lecturers, so students can gather facts and information guided by the officer," Lochridge says. "It's more didactic, more interactive with kids coming up with answers instead of just being told what the answers are," Parsons adds. "This applies to a lot of different life skills."
The decision to make the program interactive was made on the recommendation of many professionals, including educators, D.A.R.E. advisory committees and prevention experts.
Officer Jeffrey Crotty, Glen Falls (New York) Police Department, likes the new curriculum, noting that "the kids get to interact with each other more and talk about their core values." In his 13 years of teaching, Crotty has seen the program influence kids in positive ways. He remembers one child in particular who grew up in a home where his mother was addicted to crack and dealing drugs. "Initially, the kid had little motivation to stay in school or get a higher education," Crotty states. "Now 24 years old, he has a degree in teaching." Crotty attributes much of his motivation and success to D.A.R.E.D.A.R.E. goes beyond drugs
In the new D.A.R.E., students are not only taught how to resist drug use, but how to make good decisions. "They have the right to make decisions, but there are consequences," Peterson says. "If they remember the D.A.R.E. decision-making model and look at the consequences, then hopefully they will make better choices."
Along with life skills training, the new program focuses on issues specific to individual communities. All students receive the core curriculum, along with supplemental lessons that deal with things like gangs, internet safety, bullying and meth. "It affords flexibility depending on what the community needs, [and] a toolbox for whatever an officer needs," Parsons explains.
Officer Jerry Klue, a Medina, Ohio, officer with 32 years on the job, adds he especially enjoys the anti-violence education, stating "it has a major impact on our youth."
Although quantifying the advantages of D.A.R.E. is difficult, several benefits come up consistently. First, D.A.R.E. is proactive. Fritsche was a juvenile officer at the time she was introduced to it, and saw it as an ideal way to take her training further. "I was chasing the juvenile delinquents and I wanted to do something proactive," Fritsche says. "So I went to D.A.R.E. and just fell in love with it. It was a positive experience, and I got to know the kids on a different level other than just police work." Parsons emphasizes the prevention concept behind the program. "This is the most cost-effective way to approach a social/medical problem instead of trying to use only interdiction and enforcement. We are trying to educate kids."
Relationships are another important aspect of D.A.R.E. Many times, school resource officers (SROs) who teach D.A.R.E. are already a recognized figure in children's lives and the community says Kevin Quinn, Arizona school resource officer and regional director for the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). He believes that having someone who kids are already familiar with teach D.A.R.E. increases its effectiveness. "Law enforcement and kid relationships can crack and become stereotyped," Quinn, says. "It's important for them to be out there teaching the consequences of their actions. A teacher could say it, but they will take it more seriously coming from an officer."
D.A.R.E. officers also forge lasting relationships with families. "It raises awareness, encouraging parents to talk to their kids," Parson says. According to the RCMP survey, D.A.R.E. aims to open the lines of communications not only from the kids to their parents, but from the parents to their kids.
When Glen Falls considered cutting its program, the community responded. "There was a huge backlash to keep it," Crotty says. "[D.A.R.E.] works in many facets, and I think it's been the most rewarding aspect of my career." Peterson agrees; "They need to have that connection with the community; that D.A.R.E. officer going into the schools not only connects with the kids, but also with the parents and the neighborhoods. Each one of us as an individual needs to combine together for the success of our youth."