The officer looked down at the fifth-grader’s outstretched hand. Small fingers grasped what the cop instantly recognized as five tightly rolled joints packed full of weed. The child brought them to school - so he could hand them over to the authorities. The little boy’s parents were breaking the law by using drugs, so he decided to report it.
Police arrested the child’s parents, who were each charged with two misdemeanor counts of marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia possession. They were released on a promise to appear in court.
A Lesson He Didn’t Forget
What compelled this 11-year-old to turn in the drugs and his parents? He heard a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) police officer deliver a lesson about marijuana.
In his hometown of Matthews, NC, a D.A.R.E. officer travels to each of the elementary schools, teaching kids about making good choices when it comes to drugs. After hearing this officer’s lesson, the child put it into practice.
Matthews officer, Stason Tyrrell, noted, “Even if it's happening in their own home with their own parents, they understand that's a dangerous situation because of what we're teaching them. That's what they're told to do, to make us aware."
A History of Yeahs and Nays
Since its inception in 1983, D.A.R.E. has received mixed reviews. Many naysayers claim school drug programs don’t work. They feel they aren’t worth the money or they are a waste of classroom time. Others sing D.A.R.E.’s praises, grateful for a healthy program that has the potential to positively impact children’s lives.
Researchers have conducted studies to determine just how effective the D.A.R.E. program is - some studies indicated little effectiveness in the program, while others reported the program “seemed to lower alcohol and marijuana use and improve resistance skills.”
Over the years, D.A.R.E. developers have continued to evaluate and revamp the program’s curriculum and offerings. Based on research results and the changing needs of today’s youth, they’ve developed new programs and shifted the focus as needed. They want to ensure the program stays relevant and makes an impact.
Today, D.A.R.E. is in over 70 percent of school districts nationwide and can be found in more than 50 other countries around the world. The curriculum covers drugs, violence, bullying, internet safety and other high risk situations children may encounter.
But is it working?
No matter what the researchers say, residents of Matthews, North Carolina can’t deny the results. And based on one fifth-grader’s actions, at the very least, we know the message is getting through.
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