DARE program at SSISD coming to an end

District studying other ways to educate students on drugs, alcohol

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Dec 20, 2007 - A program that has taught Sulphur Springs students the ills and dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol will end in January, but a different way of educating students about the use of such substances could be on the horizon.

DARE, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program that has been co-sponsored by Sulphur Springs Police Department and Sulphur Springs Independent School District for approximately 15 years, will end on Jan. 17.

"We are stopping at the end of the first semester," SSISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton said today.

Both police and school officials indicated the decision was mutual.

The two entities split the costs of the program, which included paying the salary of a trained police officer. With materials and other resources added in, tha came out to $40,000 a year for each.

For the most part, Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jim Bayuk said, his department was getting the better end of the deal. While the DARE instructor's salary was split between the school district and police department, the officer spends more time on doing police work. Out of about 80 school days in the second semester, for example, the DARE officer was only scheduled to be at schools for 30 days.

"I'm benefitting greatly," Bayuk said. "It's costing the school more than it is the Sulphur Springs Police Department."

On the other hand, he added, having that officer on hand at all times for police duty can only help the department, where the number of full-time officers has not seen any growth in many years.

DARE instructors targeted pre-teens in their classes, teaching them about the effects of drug, alcohol and tobacco use in a frank and honest manner. Students also learned other useful tidbits, such as what to do in an emergency and what to expect if they ever have to call 911.

But DARE's effectiveness has been questioned in the past. In 1997, a U.S. Department of Education study suggested drug education programs for fifth-graders had little influence ultimately in whether or not a student ventures into substance abuse. The report in particular questioned the effectiveness of DARE, which is used in about 80 percent of the nation's elementary schools, after finding better results in schools where students took part in other drug education programs.

Four years ago, a federal General Accouting Office report found little difference in drug use between students who had received DARE instruction and those who who did not.

"All of the evaluations suggested that DARE had no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing youth illicit drug use," the report stated.

In some cases, DARE students showed stronger negative attitudes about illegal drug use, but "these positive effects diminished over time," the report found.

Bolton said there has not been a decision on whether or not to continue the DARE courses at SSISD.

"There is some research that says the DARE program may not be as effective as it once was," Bolton said. "We will be doing research to determine if it's beneficial to start it again next year, or if there is something more effective."

That's not to say, she added, that the experience has been negative.

"We have been pleased throughout the years that we have had such a good, cooperative relationship with the police department," she said.

And the school district will, one way or another, educate students on the subject, Bolton said. 

"We hope people realize we're trying to do everything we can to educate our students about the dangers of drug, alcohol and tobacco use," she said. "We want to continue doing that, and we will."

"I hope they do," said Bayuk, adding his philosophy is that as long as the program keeps one person's life from being ruined by drugs or alcohol, it's worth it.

"How do you put a price on a child?" he asked.

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