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For more than 20 years, police have used the DARE program to teach school kids about the dangers of drugs. But some critics say the program has lost its edge and is a waste of money.
DARE, which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is being reviewed with a critical eye, accused of being ineffective in combating drug use among youth. Police departments and schools across the country have drastically cut the funding for DARE or done away with the program completely. But College Station Police say DARE is more than just telling kids to say no to drugs.
" I do think it's an effective program because it's teaching children about choices. It used to be mostly about drugs, but it also talks about alcohol and violence," said Sergeant John Campbell, DARE supervisor for College Station Police.
College Station police have used DARE since 1988. The department spends roughly $36,000 dollars a year to run the program. DARE officers believe the program is still vital.
“We give them the tools that they need to make healthy choices or to get themselves out of a risky situation and give them ways to improve their self esteem," said DARE Officer Robert Turner.
Mary Mattingly researches substance abuse prevention programs for BVCASA and says there are more effective drug prevention programs out there.
"I think in some aspects it's a wonderful program although there have been quite a few evaluations done on the project and basically they've found that there was no significant difference in illicit drug use among students who received DARE education and students who did not receive drug education," said Mattingly.
There's no definite way to gage if the DARE program actually influences a child's decision to do drugs or not, but DARE officers believe they've better prepared students to make the right choices.
Only 5th graders in Bryan and College Station participate in DARE. Both cities' police departments say they will continue using the program.