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The D.A.R.E. Program has done a successful job in helping with the prevention of drug use in juveniles as well as assisting in the rehabilitation of those that have already walked down that path. The program has also been developed to help with the drug crime statistics amongst juveniles. This following pages will provide the reader with the history of D.A.R.E., the current work being provided by D.A.R.E., and the benefits that D.A.R.E. has provided to the communities in which it has expanded. As with any group that provides help to a group in society it is not without criticism as well.
The D.A.R.E. Program was introduced in 1983 and has adopted the slogan “D.A.R.E. envisions a world in which students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors” (dare.org, n.d.). This philosophy has been the groundwork for which they have developed programs that are structured towards assisting today’s youth to avoid drugs, but also accepting those that may have traveled down that path and now need to be pulled out into a world where they can recover and become focused on themselves and fighting their addictions.
D.A.R.E. was established in 1983, in Los Angeles, California as a classroom program, led by law enforcement officers to help juveniles avoid becoming involved in the life of drugs, joining gangs, and living a life of violence and crime (dare.org, n.d.). Their organization was a partnership between the educational system, and law enforcement in a hope that by combining the expertise of the two would allow them to reach a majority of the youth, and in turn provide them a safe place where they could receive an education and learn how to avoid becoming involved in the life so many youths were choosing. As staff was trained, and programs began to expand this allowed educational systems across the United States to begin to participate in the D.A.R.E. program and help in its continued growth and expansion to areas throughout the country.
D.A.R.E. since its inception in 1983 has continued to develop and further expand its reaches throughout communities to the youth living there. D.A.R.E. program as of this year is in almost 70% of school districts nationwide, and has expanded into more than 50 other nations around the world. The success of the program has allowed its continued growth. Educators, and law enforcement have seen the program success and have pushed for its expansion. Those that are newly adopting the program into their educational systems have seen the turn-around in other school districts, and communities and see the value that this program brings.
The D.A.R.E. program has been introduced and taught to over 200 million K-12 students worldwide, approximately 114 million of these in the United States alone. This program which is taught by law enforcement officers has allowed students to develop a relationship and have social interaction with police officers, and school administrators, which has proven to be crucial relationships in the prevention of drug abuse in our youth (Mallett, 2013). Our government has also seen the benefit of this program and declared one day each year to be National D.A.R.E. Day.
Financially the D.A.R.E. program has not been without cost. Through 2001 D.A.R.E. had spent approximately $1.3 billion dollars annually for implementation and training for this program. When looking overall this is an average of $220 per student (Lispsey, 2010). While this financial investment may seem high, the reduction that was produced in drug related juvenile offenses in areas that had an active D.A.R.E. program was reduced this was well worth the money spent. Saving just one youth from this path is worth that investment tenfold over.
The D.A.R.E. Program throughout the years has shown success in many areas. Statistics have shown that participants in the D.A.R.E. program had reported lower alcohol, tobacco, and drug usage over those that did not participate in the program. There was a reduction in the use of alcohol from 40% to 32% of students while participating in the program (Schuck, 2013). Studies which followed D.A.R.E. participants from elementary to middle school and high school showed that they were less likely to use marijuana compared to those that had not participated in the program.
D.A.R.E. has not only been successful in reduced alcohol and drug usage. Studies conducted have also shown that students who participated in the D.A.R.E. program had improved decision making among their peers that did not when it came to smoking and drug use. Improved decisions meant lower crime rates and juvenile drug offenses dropped in areas that had strong and constant participation in the D.A.R.E. program.
No program is without criticism from those that may not believe in the investment that is needed or the results. D.A.R.E. is no exception to this. Regardless of the success shown through juvenile crime statistics, and independent studies, D.A.R.E. still has had criticisms throughout the program life. The major criticism with this program is the lack of long term studies. Studies have only followed students throughout their educational journey years. D.A.R.E. due to this fact has not been able to prove that there is long term success in these drops in numbers. Critics also believe that D.A.R.E. may cause children to only view information they provide and ignore other information that provides details on harmful drugs. Studies have also been developed that say that D.A.R.E. only has success when students are among their peers that are part of the program, but when outside of this circle they do not see any change in youth behavior (Siegel, 2014). Criticism is part of any program, and we as individuals must utilize our reasoning skills and make choices that we feel are best.
D.A.R.E. is a program that has inspired me in how it has pushed for change to the drug problems that are faced by juveniles in our communities today. While the benefits may be limited and may not have shown long term success once a student leave the educational system, if we even save one child from the path of drugs, gang violence, or even simple smoking and alcohol abuse it is worth the effort to educate children on the dangers of these substances.
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