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DARE: Many communities are dumping D.A.R.E.

The popularity of the failed program makes it difficult to hold DARE accountible; however, its pricetag and negative impact on youth encourage communities to eliminate the program.

Arizona Audit * Minneapolis, MN * Boulder, CO * Houston TX * Oakland CA * Atascadero CA * Shampoo Wars * Families oppose DARE *

Arizona: State auditor says to drop DARE

An Arizona study showed that DARE is not cost effective. This is a state study which was done separately from the national study recently released on DARE. State auditors then recommended that AZ pull money from DARE, but the program lived on despite this motion and continues to be subsidized by taxpayers.


18 Nov 1999: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN) Copyright: 1999

Minneapolis schools drop out of DARE program

Author: Anne O'Connor, Star Tribune

Minneapolis schools will DARE no longer. After 11 years, the district and the Police Department are pulling the plug on the controversialDrug Abuse Resistance Education program in city schools. Currentclasses will end by Jan. 31.

The program has been popular with students and parents, although its effectiveness has been questioned for years. On Wednesday, as parents heard the news, some were angry that there was no parent representative on the committee that decided to end the program.

The district has been using the program for fifth-graders. DARE brings police officers into classes to teach about the dangers of drinking and chemical use.

Instead, district officials say, kindergartners through seniors will learn a new comprehensive health program covering drug resistance and also everything from first aid to exercise to emotional health to body systems.

"We're going to be able to provide a much healthier curriculum for our kids," said Pam Lindberg, a district curriculum specialist in health and physical education. "The ultimate is to have healthier kids."

Some of the about $500,000 a year the Minneapolis Police Department was spending on DARE will be saved, and some will be spent on four new school liaison officers to bring the total number to 19. That saves one aspect of the DARE program that many parents like: having kids and cops get to know each other.

Police Chief Robert Olson said several studies have questioned the effectiveness of the DARE program when it's used in only one grade, as it is in Minneapolis.

"If you're just using the single component, the fifth-grade component, it doesn't make a hill of difference," Olson said.

Some Concerns:

DARE is used in most Minnesota school districts, including St. Paul, at a total cost of several millions of dollars a year. In fact, the program is used in 80 percent of school districts nationwide, according to the nonprofit DARE America. Only a handful have pulled out of the program, said Ralph Lochridge, director of communications for DARE America.

Lochridge said his organization's main concern would be that Minneapolis children get an effective antidrug message. He said he doesn't think liaison officers can be as effective, because DARE officers in the classroom have more direct access to kids.

A 1997 Minnesota study by the DARE Advisory Council found that the program seems to have little lasting impact in preventing drug or alcohol use. Students reported that the drug-resistance strategies they learned during 17 hours of classroom instruction didn't fit the pressures they faced in the real world.

"Peer pressure is a lot harder in middle school and in high school," said Timothy Nelson, a freshman at Minneapolis' Washburn High, who's glad the program is being discontinued. "It's better to start out at a younger age and continue through middle school and high school."

Nelson participated Wednesday as a trainer for about 65 middle-school students to become "bodyguards" -- students who coach younger kids through some of those peer pressures.

"I had so many students come up to me and tell me that this was so much better than the DARE program," Nelson said.

The district's new health program for kindergarten through sixth grade is called Great Body Shop. Lindberg said that 26 schools are using the curriculum now and that it will be phased in at the district's other 65 schools in the next two years.

Sheree Zaccardi, who is the co-president of the Parent Partnership Council, said the district has some explaining to do. For one thing, there wasn't a parent representative on the committee that made the decision.

She said she doesn't want kids to be without any antidrug messages while the district gets the new program in place. And, she asked, how are teachers going to fit one more thing into an already packed day? And where is the extra staff?

"A comprehensive program would be wonderful, but if it's not properly staffed to get the program across to all the kids, it's pointless," Zaccardi said.

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson said she hopes the district will hear more parent voices in the future through the elected Parent Advisory Councils. She said that in this case, the district has heard feedback over the years from parents about DARE. Some liked the program, but many questioned it.

"They wanted to know, 'What are we doing at sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade?' " she said. She also said the new curriculum will enhance a health program that already covers antidrug issues, and she hopes that, with extra teacher training, the program can fit into other subject areas.


Boulder Weekly (CO) 4 Dec 1998

The dire consequences of DARE

By Wayne Laugesen 

Epp and Beckner are right (and we don't say that often) Police Chief Mark Beckner and Boulder County Sheriff George Epp recently dumped the local chapters of DARE, a national mistake known as Drug Abuse Resistance Education. They should be applauded for their bold actions, which hopefully will put Boulder at the leading edge of an overnight national trend. 

Publicly, Beckner says he has nothing against DARE, which every year dispatches police officers to preach against the evils of drug use to 35 million fifth graders nationally. The police chief allows that the program wasn't meeting the community's needs. Epp criticizes DARE for lacking flexibility. They're being polite. 

The truth: DARE led to an increase in drug abuse among teenagers. 

I suspected that in 1996 when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a report showing a rise in teen drug use of 78 percent between 1992 and 1995 on the heels of DARE's most prolific years of growth.

Some high profile potheads at Boulder's Sacred Herb Church-where toking joints once served as communion-also felt strongly that DARE was leading children to drugs. And who would know better, I thought. 

Shortly after the HHS report broke, I conducted some research, which involved contacting the people who know DARE best-its founders. 

I called psychologist William Hansen, whose research formed the basis for DARE. Hansen was a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California when DARE was started in 1983 by then-Los Angeles Police Chief Darryl Gates, whose son was addicted to drugs. Hansen said the LAPD took an anti-drug model he had developed while it was in its infant stages and ran with it. More than a decade later, Hansen observed, DARE was still using the exact same model, even though he himself had scrapped it as one of many unsuccessful attempts to develop a workable anti-drug program for schools.

"DARE was misguided as soon as they adopted our material, because we were off base," Hansen told me. "It's outdated material that does not work." 

I called Bill Colson, the world-renowned psychologist who co-authored 17 books with the late Carl Rogers, former president of the American Psychological Association. In the '60s and '70s, Colson and Rogers, along with renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow, developed and popularized psychological practices known as "experimental education," "humanistic psychology," and "self-actualization." Their theories formed the foundation for Hansen's research. 

Like Hansen, Colson, Rogers and Maslow all eventually said "oops," regarding the theories DARE was founded upon. 

"DARE is rooted in trash psychology," Colson told me two years ago. "We developed the theories that DARE was founded on, and we were wrong. Even Abe Maslow wrote about these theories being wrong before he died." 

Which is true, said Boulder psychotherapist Ellen Maslow, Abraham Maslow's daughter. She called DARE "nonsense" in 1996, saying the program represented widespread misinterpretation of humanistic psychology. 

Ellen Maslow said her father's vision of humanistic psychology was misunderstood by public educators, who bent and twisted it and ended up making childhood "self-esteem" a central focus of public education. Self-esteem is a central focus in DARE, and Ellen Maslow says it has led to narcissism and self-indulgence. 

Other critics of self-esteem are easy to find these days. "Saddam Hussein and Stalin had great self-esteem," Norm Resnick, a psychologist and national radio talk show host told me. "Children need authoritative guidance.

Self-esteem alone doesn't translate into making good decisions." Still not convinced DARE was all bad, I contacted psychologist Richard H. Blum at Stanford University School of Medicine. At the time, Blum was heading the single largest ongoing study of drug education in the United States, published as "Drug Education: Results and Recommendations. 

"Basically, we have found again and again that drug education in schools causes kids to take on drugs and alcohol sooner than they would without the education," Blum told me. 

Colson summed it up best. "As they get a little older, they become very curious about these drugs they've learned about from police officers. The kids start thinking, 'I don't want to say no.' Then they say, 'Didn't that police officer tell me it's my perfect right to choose?' And thus, they choose to experiment." 

By now police departments must know this. But DARE is first and foremost about money. According to Hansen, taxpayers spend about $125 per DARE pupil. "What this does is channel a lot of money to police departments, and that's why they like it," Hansen says. 

Responding to Boulder's abandonment of the program, DARE spokesman Ralph Lockridge had the gall to suggest we need more of it. The program should be broadened to include high school students, not just fifth graders, he claims.

"It's sort of like teaching someone 17 piano lessons in the fifth grade and expecting them to remember anything without any reinforcement when you test them in high school," Lockridge told the Sunday Camera. 

This man obviously suffers from excessive self-esteem disorder. 

In truth, DARE's expectation is far sillier than Lockridge's piano analogy suggests. He'd be accurate to say: "It's like teaching students 17 piano lessons in the fifth grade and then expecting them to never touch a keyboard." 

Despite their public politeness, I suspect Sheriff Epp and Chief Beckner have figured all this out and no longer wish to sponsor a program that spawns young drug addicts. 

Unfortunately, both men have suggested some other program might replace DARE. They should think about the lack of success world-renowned psychologists have had in finding a way to introduce the subject of drugs without it backfiring.

In school, students are supposed to learn. Teach them math, they'll use math. Teach them reading, they will read. Teach them about drugs, they will toke up.

We ought to celebrate the local dumping of DARE. Then take the opportunity to urge the school district and local law enforcement to reject drug education in schools. Let individual guardians of children figure out the complex issue of adolescent drug abuse on an individual basis.

Here's a proposition for the Boulder Police Department, Sheriff Epp and the Boulder Valley School District: Dare to have no drug intervention program at all. Let's call it DIRE-Drug Intervention Resistance Endeavor. The goal will be zero tolerance for drug education in public schools.

The results will be astounding. Fewer children will use drugs, more classroom time will be spent on legitimate education, and police will be able to focus on crime.


Houston Chronicle, 06/11/98

Fund cuts for Houston DARE are sought /
Program fails to stem drug abuse - Driscoll


City Councilman Ray Driscoll called for a 50 percent cut in funding to the Houston Police DARE program Wednesday, calling the popular nationwide effort good public relations for police but ineffective in combating drug use among youth.

"We're spending a lot of money on PR (public relations) and T-shirts, pencils and signs, but we're not getting any results," said Driscoll, who has criticized the program in the past. "We've had it in Houston for 12 years. Drug use among youth continues to rise. Something is wrong."

He issued his call to chop city funding to Drug Abuse Resistance Education in the form of an amendment to Mayor Lee Brown 's proposed fiscal 1999 budget. The amendment will be considered by City Council in two weeks.

Driscoll said there have been numerous studies in recent years in which researchers reported that DARE had little or no effect on substance abuse by teens.

"I have been to DARE graduations," Driscoll said. "I have spoken to high school kids about the DARE program and very few of them can tell me what it was. They say something like, `I remember that. I went through that.' What did you learn? They say, `Drugs are bad.' I don't think you have to go through a DARE program to learn that."

Driscoll said that he would offer a substitute amendment next week that the 50 percent funding cut should go to existing anti-drug programs with a successful track record.

Councilwoman Martha Wong agreed with Driscoll. "I think there are some programs that are more successful than DARE ," she said.

Afterward, Brown , who began the DARE program in Houston when he was police chief, predicted council would spare the program the budget knife.

"Anyone who has visited a DARE graduation will know that it makes a difference," the mayor said. "Anyone who has talked with a child who has been through the DARE program, knows that it makes a difference."

Houston Police Chief C.O. Bradford said about 27,000 fifth-graders and 24,000 seventh-graders participate in local DARE programs.

Asked what effect cutting the DARE funding by half would have, Bradford said, "I think we would have to reduce the number of students by half. We would have to decide which of the schools would not have the opportunity to experience the DARE program."

HPD's DARE program costs $3 .7 million a year to operate, $3 .3 million of which is salaries and benefits for the 63 officers who work with the program, Bradford said.

He questioned what people are looking for when they say DARE does not work. He likened it to driver education classes.

"It's not so they won't have an accident, it's to better prepare them when they hit the road," Bradford said. "That's what DARE does."

The University of Houston is studying the local DARE program and the results of the study are expected this summer. Bradford said that if the study indicates the program needs modifying, he would support that.


Oakland, California, July 25, 1995

Oakland eliminates DARE by unanimous vote

After spending more than $600,000 per year without any significant change in student drug use, the City of Oakland voted unanimously July 25 to say "no" to D.A.R.E. The City and Police Department agreed at a Public Safety Committee meeting to defund the controversial program and put its police officers back on the streets. The program is opposed by community groups across America for its cost, its secrecy, its inaccuracies, and reports of increased drug use among students who participate. Before it could be reconsidered, D.A.R.E. would have to compete for funds with other curricula that its critics say are more effective.

Oakland is the largest community to withdraw from the D.A.R.E. program to date. A community coalition of family groups, researchers and teachers spoke at the hearing in support of the change. UC Berkeley professor Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., presented and reviewed a thick folio of studies and reports documenting the ineffectiveness of the program. D.A.R.E. opponents favor making drug education part of a credible health curriculum designed to protect young people from abusing hard drugs.

"D.A.R.E.'s self-promotion is a free giveaway of bumper stickers, tee shirts, diplomas, etc.. That creates a strong emotional attachment to this failed program," said Family Council on Drug Awareness director Chris Conrad. "All we have available to counter it are scientific facts and our personal commitment to protect children. In this case, that was enough. The bottom line is that D.A.R.E. is an expensive program that seems to be making the situation worse." There are also national reports of police misuse of program funds, and of officers teaching children to spy on their families and act as police informants.

"A lot of people are uncomfortable with this situation, but it is not easy to stand up against a program that hands out tax breaks to businesses and candy to kids to buy their affection and support. The message this action sends out to concerned parents, teachers and school boards is this: It can be done. Gather the facts on D.A.R.E., bring your neighbors to the decision makers and voice your concerns. In Oakland, we found that the community needs its money to go to programs that really work, and the police department needs its officers back on the street fighting crime. Those were points that everyone could agree on."

Conrad explained that the program's problems are inherent to its approach. Even the name, D.A.R.E., encourages risk-taking behavior. It reinforces dangerous attitudes by telling kids that if they try one drug they will go on to others, rather than help them draw the line. The program is based on scare tactics, peer pressure, assertiveness training, social stigmas, and other powerful impulses that are easy to trigger but impossible to control. "Once a kid learns to 'just say no,' it is just as easy to say no to D.A.R.E. as it is to say no to drugs," Conrad said. "Kids don't need flashy stickers and slogans. They need qualified guidance."


FCDA: Family Council on Drug Awareness

Text of FCDA testimony at the May 1995 Oakland hearing on DARE

By FCDA Director Chris Conrad

I am here today to speak against the continued subsidization of the DARE program and to urge that the program be removed from the local school system. With all due respect to those who support the program, it seems clear this is an emotional response that is often tainted by a financial self-interest in continuing the program. Numerous unbiased evaluations have found that DARE is effective at only one thing: raising money for DARE. Perhaps the most thorough and circumspect such review is the one known as the Triangle Report, which compiled and considered numerous other reports. The overall conclusion was that DARE is ineffective.

After 12 years in operation, there is no question that the program is a failure. In 1994, the federal Drug Czar, Education Secretary, and Secretary of Health and Human Services held a joint press conference to announce NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) statistics showing an increase in drug use among the nations' students. I hold DARE partially to blame.

Even the name DARE is a provocative double-entendre that implies a challenge to experiment with drugs.

From its ill-conceived name to its false premise to its corrupted application, the DARE curriculum is fatally flawed. Repeated surveys and studies have proven that the program is a waste of money at best, and counter-productive at worst. Police in the classroom is not education, it is political indoctrination. And whereas this country is founded on the premise that all people are created equal, DARE divides society into two classes: those who are "drug free" and those who are bad people. That attitude is inherently unamerican.

Over the past six years, I have talked with hundreds of students and parents about DARE. Their comments are not flattering. Most students find that DARE is boring or an excuse to get out of other schoolwork. Many say it actually makes them more curious about drugs. Peer pressure and assertiveness are powerful motivational forcess that cannot be controlled once they are instilled in a child. Lacking proper training, these officers also lack credibility. Students gather together after class to talk about drugs and criticize the DARE information. The curriculum makes no distinction between use and abuse, or between soft and hard drugs. Kids are told that if they smoke pot they will go to hard drugs, which can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Kids are not taught to discriminate between drugs; they are taught to discriminate against certain people. There are documented cases of DARE officers using the program to teach children to spy on their own family and report parents and siblings to the police. This is not always the case, of course. But DARE is essentially a self-promotion tool of the police department to dispense paraphernalia like tee shirts, soft drinks, buttons, bumper stickers, and so on.

This approach is not cost effective. It is not effective, at all. It is, in reality, a waste of scarce resources.

Two questions arise: First, is the goal to reduce drug use among students? If so, then DARE should be eliminated and replaced with a program that has some credibility among young people. That means a health program based on honest information that seeks to break down stereotypes and reduce destructive behavior.

The second question: Is the goal to have a police-student public relations program? Half of high school seniors have tried marijuana. One out of four young black men will be arrested at some point, many for drug offenses. Having a police officer come to class to tell lies about drugs and urge kids to have their friends and family arrested may not be the best public relations tool. More likely, it is one of the worst, because it leads to later distrust and disrespect. If we want to improve police community relations, keep the streets safe from violent crime and bring cops and kids together to play basketball or to talk about issues in an informal basis &emdash; but don't waste school time and money on the program.

We are all concerned about the health and well being of our children. For that reason, I urge you to do something really good for them. Take away the DARE money and use it for more teachers and better teaching material. Better schools will give them the tools to succeed in life, and that has been proven the most effective deterrent to drug abuse.

The City of Oakland has ended its support of the DARE program and is developing in its place an multi-disciplinary approach that involves the schools, the recreation department, and parents in an effort to delay first use of ilegal drugs, which includes alcohol and tobacco for young people.

Early use often leads to later abuse. The most common problem is that of unsupervised time in which kids are more likely to get into trouble, with drugs or otherwise. Use of athletic and recreation department facilities under adult supervision will help mitigate that.

Use of mentors and peer role models should emphasize positive, responsible behavior rather than recovery.

Reincorporating drug education into the general health curriculum will reduce the undue emphasis on the role of drugs in peoples' lives and remove the artificial glamor attached to drugs.

Another problem is the hramful influence of television, which reinforces negative role models and promotes violence. Violent behavior is a gateway to criminal misconduct. Children need to learn to suspend their belief of television and should be taught conflict resolution and aggression reduction as basic life skills.

As this grand experiment in Oakland continues, it will provide important information to be used by other communities such as this in protecting our young people from the consequences of both the drug war and hard drugs, as well as the criminal underground market in drugs which it has generated.

Thank you. 


LA Times Business Section, 11/19/1998, Thu, p. C-2. The State / Small Business


A Westwood shampoo manufacturer has sued the head of a national drug organization, alleging that he defamed the company in a recent newspaper article. Alterna Inc. filed the civil suit against Glenn Levant, a former deputy Los Angeles police chief and founder of DARE America, Inc., a private, nonprofit program that promotes the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program to schoolchildren nationwide.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that Levant made false and malicious statements about the compant when he said in a Nov., 6 Los Angeles Times article that the company's Alterna Hemp Shampoo "is a subterfuge to promote marijuana" because its ads feature a cannabis leaf.

In a news release, the company said it would drop the suit if Levant retracted his statement in the newspaper, paid the company's legal fees, and financed "correctional advertising to inform all Alterna customers of Levant's inaccurate comments." Levant called the suit "a cheap publicity gimmick" that is without merit. (Stephen Gregory)


09 June 1999, San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune (CA)

Atascadero schools very close to dropping DARE

By Alexis Chiu, Associated Press Writer, Maria T. Garcia, The Tribune

The popular Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, better known as DARE, will likely be scrapped from the school districts curriculum next year. That's because district officials say the money used for the program should be spent on teachers.

Atascadero DARE officer Brian Dana, who will return to patrol if the program is abolished, said he thinks the program is a vital and proactive way to combat drug abuse. "We waste so much money reacting after things happen," Dana said. "This is a way to act before theres a problem. We do so much for the kids and now the district wants to take this away from us."

Superintendent Dan Dodds said the final decision to drop the program is up to the Board of Trustees, who are scheduled to adopt the budget June 22. However, its unlikely the trustees will go against the recommendations of district officials and the budget board, who proposed dropping DARE, he said.

If the program is not continued, Atascadero will be the only district in the county without the anti-drug program.

"We have a number of prevention programs in place," Dodd said. "It was very hard for us to employ a police officer over a teacher."

Even without the program, Dodds said students at San Benito, San Gabriel, Monterey Road elementary schools and the Santa Rosa Academic Academy still will be taught an anti-drug curriculum.

The Sheriffs Department will continue implementing the DARE program at Creston, Carrisa Plains and Santa Margarita elementary schools free of charge to the district.

In September 1989, the Atascadero Unified School District began implementing the DARE curriculum at its elementary schools with the help of the local police department. The district and the city have since agreed to split the cost of paying a police officer to teach the 17-week course.

But the district did not budget the $25,000 to cover its share of the officers salary for the coming school year, Dodds said.

In turn, the city did not set aside matching funds for the program in its budget, said City Manager Wade McKinney.

The cost of implementing the program in Atascadero is $62,935 a year the same as the salary for a full-time police officer. Although McKinney said the City Council considers DARE to be a beneficial program, its unlikely it will pick up the tab.

"Im a supporter of DARE," McKinney said. "But I dont want to second guess the districts decision (not to continue the program). Sometimes you have to make tough choices on worthwhile programs."

The DARE curriculums emphasis is on preventing substance abuse by teaching elementary school students about the perils of drugs, Dana said. All the police departments in San Luis Obispo County have partnerships with their respective school districts. The program also is in place at schools around the nation and in 44 countries around the world, according to a DARE press release.

Dana said he's heard talk about the district discontinuing the DARE curriculum but has not officially been told that the program has been axed.

"Im not very happy about what Im hearing," said Dana, who was instrumental in bringing a Blackhawk helicopter to San Gabriel Elementary School for an anti-drug rally last week.

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