DARE Program Being Cut in Many States

Once it was a rite of passage to adulthood to sit in a DARE class at your school and listen to a local police officer describe the dangers of drug abuse. At the end of the course, you might even be rewarded with stickers, free pencils, or even a DARE tee shirt.

The Drug Abuse Resistance Program or DARE with its slogan “Dare to keep kids off drugs” remains widely popular with parents, even though it is gradually disappearing from many schools. Developed in 1983 when First Lady Nancy Reagan was telling children to “just say no to drugs,” DARE was offered in schools all over the United States, and drug education grew into a $2 billion business.

Today, however, the program is being discontinued, partly because of a 2009 study by Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum, a professor of criminal justice and psychology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He found that children in Illinois who took part in the DARE program actually had higher rates of drug abuse than students who did not.

Organizations that are working toward the legalization of marijuana and other drug reforms have criticized schools for giving children too much misinformation. For example, an educator may equate heroin abuse with cigarette abuse. There is also some evidence that DARE programs do not work for teenagers who are already substance abusers.

During difficult economic times, police departments do not have the money to spare for a DARE officer, or to pay for its supplies and T-shirts, and that is having an impact on the DARE programs.

“I wish I could wave a magic wand to end the funding mess and bring the DARE program back,” said Susan Mochen, a Palm County school district education director for the DARE Officers’ Association of Florida. “It is really concerning because in certain communities there is really a high use of drugs and alcohol.”

In south Florida, 6,318 students participated in DARE in 2008, but today, that number is down to 2,430. Similar declines in participation may be seen all over the United States.