Farewell and Good Riddance

Recently while walking across the parking lot towards a grocery store, I noticed a table had been set up near the entrance.
It held one of those tall jars with a slot cut into its bright red lid, taking donations for the D.A.R.E. program sponsored by the Police Department.

The chirrup youngish adult, probably a newly arrived college student on the far side of the table went into her spiel about how the D.A.R.E. Program is running out of funds to run its programs.

As she tried to shove a tri-fold pamphlet into my hand with one of hers, she waved her other hand over the jar and beseeched me to please make a contribution.  I’ll bet that tactic works real often on the guys her age who are trying to get her phone number.

I interrupted her by saying “Hallelujah” like I was at a revival.

What she couldn’t know about me, a stranger probably older than her mother, is that I’ve already said my thoughts about the D.A.R.E. program when my own sons’ minds were meddled with, back in the early 90s.

I was a Volunteer Mom in the elementary school where my sons and neighbor kids attended.

One morning, I rode my bicycle up to the school and saw the police car parked outside, too close to the bus lane.
The program was still so new that there was no specially marked car for D.A.R.E.  I wondered about a cop car at a kid school, even if the lights were not flashing.

I decided to walk into the building anyway, and ended up following about 12 paces behind the police officer as we ambled down the hall.

A cop in full uniform, handcuffs, gun in holster, radio buzz, sets my nerves on High Alert, and really did not make me feel any better that we were in an elementary school surrounded by young students.

When we got to the T in the hall, I went left to the library, and he turned right towards the office.

I told the head Librarian that I would be back in a few minutes, I wanted to see what classroom the officer would be speaking.
It was one of my son’s homerooms, so I started to go in.
The officer stopped me, saying the children might be uncomfortable if a parent were there, and might not ‘speak freely’.
I could see the teacher pushing a table out into the hall, with a stack of papers to grade.
I came to realize this law officer would have about an hour to inform little kids about drugs.

I marched back to the office, but the Assistant said the Principal was at a meeting in another building.

I set up an appointment with him for the next day.

When I got home after my hours in the library, I typed out a letter with my questions, and made a few copies for the principal and school board and D.A.R.E. officer himself.

When I was in the office with the Principal, I shoved a copy of the Student Handbook across the desk at him, open to the page where it said that parents are welcome to visit at any time of the school day, and asked why I had been turned away just because a cop was in the room with my kid?  And why did the teacher leave the room—so that the cop could have the kids be a snitch for their family?

I told him I was not at all comfortable with an officer of the law being a teacher about drugs.  At the very least, any lessons within the school building should come from a Health teacher or the School Nurse.  If there was to be an adult from society, then a druggist or an ER doctor should be the instructor.
To have information about drugs coming from the person who could do an arrest and carry off to jail was the wrong angle to be teaching little kids.

The principal did not get to being in that position because he was awkward with irate mothers.  He said the program had been voted on at the School Board, and there wasn’t a whole lot he could do to stop it coming into his school.  Being a parent, if I chose to do so, I could pull my kid out of the classroom during the times when D.A.R.E. was being presented.  I knew that would not sit right with my sons, they liked knowing what was going on and having something in common with their friends.

The principal did say what he could do would have the teacher stay quietly inside the room, while listening to make sure the D.A.R.E. officer stayed within proper standards.
(later, I heard the teachers were not happy that I had raised a ruckus)
He also said he would mention our meeting and my concerns to other school principals.

I knew the restaurant where the D.A.R.E. officer took his morning coffee break, so I carried the letter to him.  There we sat at the counter, talking about the same concerns as I had with the principal.  He took the letter and said he would discuss it with his supervisor.

If you were to have asked my sons when they were teenagers about what they had thought about the D.A.R.E. program when they were younger, the word “JOKE” would have come up fairly often.  And I noticed that the same students who had been with them in classes all the way through school seemed to decide about smoking and drugs in a way most random.  Any lessons foisted upon them in their younger days got shuffled aside by the legal age of maturity.

At my word, the girl across the table seemed to sputter a bit with her details.  She probably hadn’t ever heard anybody who was glad to know the program with questionable results would no longer be draining tax coffers.
I explained a bit about how I had written a letter and had discussions with the D.A.R.E. officer back in the days when it was important to me and my own sons.
She gave a lopsided smile and said,
“I’ll bet it made his day”

Well, yeah, he said he and his supervisor got quite a chuckle about how a mother was trying to prevent D.A.R.E. from helping children.  Most mothers want their kids to be fully informed, and first in everything.

We were gathering a few bystanders by now.  One woman about my age said she had never been comfortable that a cop was in school with her daughter, and a man about 30 said he thought the lessons would have been better coming from the school nurse.
The chirrup could tell she wasn’t gaining ground, so she went over to her chair and sat down.

An older man reached out and dropped a $1 into the jar.

The rest of us went on our way.

When I came back out of the store, the table had been moved a few feet to avoid the sun.  The girl didn’t look at me as I passed.

I haven’t provided any links, but if you want to look up D.A.R.E. spending, you can get an eyeful of articles.

Recently, when I found a son’s old and too small by now D.A.R.E. t-shirt, without even asking his permission, I cut it up to use for rags then put the logo part into the trash.

Some memories are easier when put behind us.

~~love and Huggs, Diane

Update 26 Aug 07: Thanks for contributing to this discussion.
Decrepit Old Fool wrote a heads-up for this post, and there are a few more comments over there.

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18 Responses to Farewell and Good Riddance

  1. caroline says:

    I can see your point of view……but in all fairness every child gets what they want out of the DARE program. I personally seen what my children got out of the class.
    I’m hoping the way that they feel about drugs and alchohol, and smoking and alot of what they teach is how to cope with peer pressure will stay instilled in them as they grow up.
    Maybe your right about a doctor or nurse or teacher would be better at it. But with an officer they can see their are consequences for the wrong actions…
    Just my opinion….and once again i see your point of view. All you can do is give them the information and hope they get something out of it.

  2. webs05 says:

    I interrupted her by saying “Hallelujah” like I was at a revival.

    I am working late here at the COB and you have no idea how big of a smile that put on my face. LOL that was funny!

    the word “JOKE” would have come up fairly often.

    You are dead on here. When I went through the program about 15 years ago for the first time us kids just rolled our eyes when we had to sit through it. I went to Oakland Elem, and we had a school meeting in the gym for it. The whole time most kids were laughing and making fun of it.

    I think it would of been more effective to have a parent teach me about drugs and inform me of them and consequences, rather than a D.A.R.E program. When I was younger I was more inclined to listen to my parents than a cop, that as I was growing up I was taught to hate and disrespect from TV and friends. In fact for some it interested them more so than deterred…

  3. Karen says:

    We now have School Resource Officers (SRO’s) in MANY schools, some even have metal detectors to detect the guns and knives the kids bring to school. I think if PRAYER and RESPECT for Country and EACH OTHER would have STAYED in the Schools…we wouldn’t need D.A.R.E., SRO’s or metal detectors…BRING PRAYER BACK!!! I dispatch for law enforcement….They need to do the parents job of teaching because the parents aren’t doing it themselves. We have domestic violence calls DAILY!!! No wonder the kids need help…a lot of kids grow up in a VERY NEGATIVE home…with NO morals or good example.

  4. george.w says:

    Caroline, DARE is one of those political great ideas that gets established and nobody can criticize it because it has a lofty goal. Here’s a little early DARE history.

    As for your children, if your children stay off drugs, it’s to their credit, not DARE. At least, that is what the studies show.

    Karen, you are right that growing up in a negative home is a large part of our society’s problems. Religious negativism is everywhere, along with other kinds. And – how to put this gently? – the idea that prayer in schools would fix everything is bunk.

    History gives us scant reason to think that religion has been able to lessen the scourges of human nature. Heck, the bloodiest war our country ever fought – with ourselves, no less – was during a time when prayer in schools was standard practice. (There was nothing “Civil” about it)

    The ideal past we remember never happened; the old days were terrible. Literacy was rare, violence and disease were everywhere, life was short, and the civility we believe pervaded society is simply fiction.

    The reasons for drugs, gangs, violence, broken families are complex. I happen to think that Humanism – the notion that this life is all we have and we should cherish it and protect it – would be a better ethical framework for society than fear of hell, and looking at the social record of humanist countries gives some support to that notion. But it’s doubtful we could get from here to there in any simple way. There’s no single switch to throw for societal change.

  5. momma says:

    My kids were almost through school when DARE was introduced in our schools. Yes what little I did hear of it was a joke at the time. So I’m not at liberty to state much more than that. At my age I get a lot of hello I’m with the police officers association calls which I feel are bogus but I could be wrong there.

  6. caroline says:

    I don’t disagree with what you say. Like anything at school it’s just information, you learn from it as you will. Unfornately their are some parents out their that may not have the time to, or know how to discuss these things to their children. Also there are some children that just won’t even listen to what a parent has to say, they may listen and absorb the information with someone else.
    Hopefully with my kids, the information and the way that i raise them will detour them from any of those habits.
    I think the best way is for parents to be more involved with their kids. The sad and honest truth is that we live in a day and age where it takes a 2 person income to live and raise a family. Parenting isn’t like it used to be, where the mom was always there. Now parents have to cope with working 1 to 2 jobs and pray that their kids are doing the right things.
    I know if my parents could have been more involved it might had made a difference in alot of what i had done. (not that i was horrible, but i did make a few bad decisions)

  7. george.w says:

    Caroline, doesn’t it bother you the least little bit that on balance, according to the best accounting, DARE simply doesn’t work and is a waste of money? If we need extra-familial programs, shouldn’t we develop and fund ones that work?

  8. caroline says:

    I thought that i had said in both comments that i did not disagree with what you said. And if they can come up with anything better i am all for it…I did not think that i was defending DARE and or putting it down.
    I still say parenting is key! I wish more parents could get more involved. I won’t say anymore about it, but i thank you for the website information, i did not know that information before hand. The only thing that i went on was what my kids brought home and what my kids said they got out of it.

  9. JA says:

    Of course one of our Dare officers got fired for smoking pot. I briefly dated him and the cops tried to track me down to ask me questions about him. Glad I was out of town. I knew nothing about his habits. But I think he got what he deserved. Now he is a security guard.

  10. MrsDoF says:

    Caroline, you are correct in that each child takes away from a lesson what is most important for him/herself.
    Some of the students in class with my sons actually needed to hear an authority figure tell them/ give permission to think for themselves–to “Just say No” to the taunting and other pressures of their friends and mates.

    Also, you make a good case for expecting parents to be engaged with their children, although I don’t think having both adults working at jobs outside the home is necessarily terrible for children.
    Both my parents worked long hours, and as the oldest child, I looked after my younger sisters and cooked supper for a family of six when I was 12 years old. Sometimes I think it made me grow up too fast (my husband concurs), but I know my mother was not happy being home all the time.

    We talked often of why she was working, and how the Summer would be different if we didn’t have enough money to go to Girl Scout camp or have the car fixed.

    If other folks in the community hadn’t been so critical of her being out of the house, our family could have been more content with the double income and all it could buy.

    What matters to a child is how the parent treats the situation. We were blessed with intelligent sons, and we set expectations for behavior and self-acceptance fairly high. I think the main reason our boys shrugged at D.A.R.E. lessons was because they had discussed the scenario before at our dinner table.
    All through the years, during Parent/Teacher Conferences, I heard over and over again how the boys were leaders, contributed well to class discussions, had insight beyond the textbook.

    Whenever I had a group of kids in my living room or riding in my van, I talked with them directly, asked individual questions, told my own opinion.
    I was a Volunteer Mom in the school, and children ran up to me and grabbed my hand in greeting. There are still times I’ll be wandering around a store or at a recital and some young person comes over with a hearty Hello, Mrs. Wiman!

    And to Karen, having prayer in schools goes against the US Constitution writing about the separation of church and state.
    I don’t think mandatory prayer every morning would be a full answer for the sass that comes from the mouths of students.
    I know this to be true, I work in classrooms and walk the halls of our town’s high schools.

    Yes, we have School Resource Officers, although I am not sure what agency supervises them. But when a 6′ tall teenage boy told me to ‘mind my place’, I did not back down, nor did I call the SRO. I guess being a mom and teacher with experience, and a woman of a certain age, gave me enough confidence to handle the situation and get the kid on the bus in a timely manner. I didn’t even threaten him with a Detention. It helped that a few other boys his size were understanding of me and rallied round.
    Now that’s peer pressure in a good way.

    Matters of common courtesy and respect are not a Christian dictate alone. I have friends of Muslim and Hindu faiths, and their children often behave more politely than many other children who are dragged to Protestant church services every time the doors are open.

    Ah, yes, JA, another friend sent an e-mail to remind me about the D.A.R.E. officer who was busted for using.
    No wonder our kids thought the program was a joke.

  11. MrsDoF says:

    We got all distracted about D.A.R.E. and I completely lost the detail about how the chirrup gave up any sort of discussion or defense, and simply went over to sit in her chair and avoid us.

    Could this be mental accuracy and agility gone awry?

  12. Maria says:

    I wish I could sit down over a cup of coffee and continue the wonderful points made already about family, D.A.R.E. religion, and which programs work and which do not.

    I wish there was more time set aside to teach values in our classrooms. I know many teachers work hard to find time for this, but with all the testing and Bush and his “No Child Left Behind” it becomes nearly impossible.

    Pointing fingers of blame at school or family isn’t the answer either. Finding a way for trust and respect to grow may help. Again, it comes down to time and money.

    I lost a son to drugs. He had the D.A.R.E lectures in grade school. Many years have passed and I still wonder what I could have done differently. However at this point, looking back 20 plus years and blaming myself is counter-productive.

    I have often thought stopping the drugs coming into our country and closing all illegal selling here would help solve the problem. Can you imagine not having to have programs like D.A.R.E because drugs didn’t exist. Even as I write this, I know how naive I am. Guess that is why I would love to sit down with all of you, a cup of coffee, and a lively exchange of ideas.

  13. george.w says:

    Maria, thank you for your insights. I am so sorry to hear about your son.

    The terrible thing is that when we’re raising children (a job we take on without experience) there are hundreds of popular experts telling us the right way to do it, the way that guarantees a happy adulthood for our children. Unfortunately, they contradict each other. Most likely none of them are right because there is no one way – you sort of need a crystal ball to know what to do for a particular child.

  14. caroline says:

    Maria…I am so sorry for your loss.

    Nothing is wrong with parents working, lord knows I grew up with working parents, and my husband and I are working parents. The difference is that We try to get involved with the school, we try and do things as a family all the time.
    I wish i had the kind of involvment with my parents as I try to do for mine. Your right Maria I wish we all could sit and talk and bounce around ideas and come up with something that could work.

    I guess alot of what i might have said may or could have been taken in the wrong way. It’s really hard to get what you really want to say in just a few sentences.. And this is such a hard subject to talk about.

    When it comes down to it, it’s all about each individual child and the question “will i, or won’t I?”

  15. webs05 says:

    I am sorry to hear about your loss Maria, I can’t imagine going through the same.

    Drugs, alcohol, and firearms are similar in the fact that all are dangerous and very popular. To the extent that people are going to find a way to get them no matter what. I for one am fine with people being able to carry weapons, I just wish there was a better system to teach people about proper gun safety. That being said, I feel that gun laws only hurt those that legally carry. Because it is impossible to stop criminals from obtaining guns and using them illegally. If someone came up with an idea on how to get rid of every gun in the world, I would be all for it.

    I treat alcohol and drugs similar, in that stopping the proliferation of said items creates a dangerous black market for it. About every week or month or so, we may see that a huge criminal got busted for distribution, but another pops up within the hour because the money to made is ludicrous. But the “War on Drugs” has also changed the potency and price of drugs. Most drugs these days are not only cheaper than they were in the 70s, but they are also much more effective at getting people high.

    I’m not necessarily saying we need to legalize all drugs. That still wouldn’t help those addicted to the more powerful drugs. I think we need a system where drugs are decriminalized and we help our citizens who have addictions. Instead of throwing them on the streets or in prisons and treating them as criminals. That does no good.

    Just my 2 cents…

  16. Bruce Boeck says:

    Hallejuyah is right! Working in social services–specificly substance abuse treatment–while my kids were being subjected to DARE, it put them in an interesting situation. Frequently my kids knew more about drugs than the DARE officer and would challenge the statements made by him, which of course the officer dismissed by saying “your dad is wrong”. When they pointed out where I worked, they realized they were on rather tenuous ground. Of course, I also poiinted out the numerous studies thatt showed that DARE had NO impact upon kids as far as prevention went. Meanwhile, how much do you think our local police forces spent on paying for the nice cars, tshirts, officer, etc? Don’t get me started!

  17. C-R-R says:

    My experience with D.A.R.E. has been different. Though I know the research doesn’t support it being an effective deterrent, I think there are definitely some benefits. The biggest is that it puts a positive face on the police force for a number of children who may have had negative experiences before or in their families.
    Seeing the D.A.R.E. officer as someone with whom they can talk can definitely be a plus. My kids went to a school that works with loads of at-risk kids.

    Also, I think the D.A.R.E. program has really evolved significantly over the last 15 years.
    It was initially a one-shot or so program.
    Now the officers come into the classrooms on a weekly basis for the entire year. There is much more of an opportunity to establish a relationship there.

    . . . just my two cents . . .

  18. B-I-E says:

    I read through about the DARE program and thought back to the days that i was in sixth grade and went through the program.
    You know the only thing that i remember is being scared to death of the officer and franticly trying to get my parents to wash my DARE shirt before Friday, because the whole class got in trouble if we did not wear the shirts every Friday.
    I can not tell you one thing that i learned from that experience that i still keep with me today, other than being scared.
    I have to tell you that the school that i am teaching at now does not use the program and our principal does not let uniformed police officers in the building unless there is a valid reason for them to be there.
    If they are there she comes over the announcements and lets all the teachers know who is in the building and why they are there.
    They have had to be in the building some b/c we have had some instances of breaking in and theft.