Sheriff defends DARE program

Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan discounts an educational journal report that the popular DARE anti-drug abuse program is ineffective.

"There have been many studies done on DARE," Sheahan said.

"Some say it works very well and others day it doesn't work.

"We find that the DARE program we teach in 13 schools in the county has a positive effect, especially in the relationship between law enforcement officers and school children.

Anything we can do to bolster that relationship is positive."

A recent study published in Health Education Research, a journal for educators, indicates DARE , or Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is ineffective or has not been sufficiently tested.

The study was conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and focused on DARE and two other widely used programs, McGruff's Drug Prevention and Child Protection and Here's Looking at You 2000.

The study found that many schools use heavily marketed curricula, such as DARE, that have not been evaluated, have been evaluated inadequately or have been shown to be ineffective in reducing substance abuse.

The study's authors say other "proven" programs are available.

However, the research covered just 104 school districts in 11 states, and Arizona was not one of them.

Sheahan said his department has taught the 17-week DARE program for 12 years.

It is taught mainly to sixth-graders at Cerbat Elementary School and La Senita School in Kingman and Black Mountain Elementary School in Golden Valley.

In addition, the program is taught at schools in Yucca, Wikieup and Valentine, Sheahan said.

DARE begins by instructing children about the different types of drugs abused in society, their effects on people and how to say no to someone offering them.

"It's not only about drugs but alcohol, tobacco and resolving conflicts without violence," Sheahan said.

"Self-esteem is taught so young people can take pride in themselves and gain insight into making correct decisions throughout life."

DARE was created in 1983 by police officers in Los Angeles.

Roughly 80 percent of school districts in the country either have a DARE program or are in the process of implementing one.

DARE America is in the midst of a five-year study to evaluate a new curriculum.

"I'm glad they're conducting a study," Sheahan said.

"Perhaps there is a need for some overhaul and I look forward to seeing the study results."

Any program that raises awareness of drugs is not wasted, said Mike Ford, superintendent of the Kingman Unified School District.

"People tend to look for sweeping changes and that's not how society changes one person at a time," Ford said.

"The more young people we impact with programs like DARE the better chance future generations have of reaping the benefits."