Thursday, August 05, 1999

DARE program scrutinized

Council questions effectiveness, funding

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In the wake of a study that shows little benefit from the drug education program DARE, Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday questioned funding for the program.

        A study published early this week by researchers at the University of Kentucky said participation in DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programs has little effect on whether children use drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.

        The Cincinnati Police Division has 11 officers who work for DAREduring school months, at a cost of more than $550,000, said City Manager John Shirey.

        “We are entitled to some response about the effectiveness of the money we spend,” Councilman Phil Heimlich said.

        Other council members echoed his discontent. Member Tyrone Yates said the discussion about DARE has come up several times in as many years, but council is reluctant to cut funding over objections by police and parents.

        “Many times, parents latch onto a program that has the appearance of success,” Mr. Yates said.

        Eight of 10 U.S. school districts have such programs, but several cities have dropped them in the last few years in the wake of critical studies.

        Sgt. Carolyn Williams, who runs DARE for the Cincinnati Police Division, said after the council discussion that she is adjusting the division's approach to respond to criticism.

        For the first time this year, students will have the training reinforced through grade 8 instead of ending with grade 6, Sgt. Williams said.

        To graduate from the program, students spend 17 weeks in class, write an essay and complete a workbook. Sgt. Williams said police officers spoke with 27,214 children during the 1997-98 school year.

        She said the city should keep the program until someone comes up with a better way to keep kids off drugs.

        “DARE is ... a viable means to let these kids know somebody cares about them,” Sgt. Williams said.


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