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DARE debate

Kivalliq RCMP defend substance education program

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Dec 20/00) - Kivalliq RCMP officers know an effective program when they see it, regardless of what Americans may say.

Salt Lake City, Utah, was the latest American city to ban the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program from its schools.

City Mayor Rocky Anderson denounced the program saying it often does more harm than good and has never been proven to be effective.

The city called on other U.S. police agencies to stop promoting the program.

Donald R. Lynam of the American Federation of Teachers wrote an article on DARE's ineffectiveness this past year.

He said there has never been any evidence that DARE works.

"We followed a cohort of children who were sixth-graders when the study began," said Lynam.

"Of the 31 schools they attended, 23 were randomly assigned to receive DARE in Grade 6.

"Participants were assessed yearly through Grade 10 and recontacted when they were 20 years old.

"Consistent with other scientifically sound studies, we found DARE had no effect on students' drug use at any time through Grade 10."

A number of American schools have also claimed DARE students often find themselves in physical confrontations with others who don't share their point of view.

Kivalliq RCMP members aren't too impressed with the Americans' claims.

In fact, Kivalliq police promote the DARE program.

Mario Vachon of the Rankin detachment took his DARE instructor's course in Winnipeg this past month.

He said DARE is a great course for youth.

"I'm very surprised this would come from any police force," said Vachon.

"DARE gives the students a bit more self-esteem and assertiveness in learning ways to say no to drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

"I can't see anything negative about that."

No violence stressed

Baker Lake graduated DARE classes in grades five and six last year.

Cpl. Paul Richer said the DARE program not only teaches ways to say no, it also goes into the consequences of substance abuse and promotes clean, alternative lifestyles.

He said there is nothing in DARE's eight ways to say no that could put a student at physical risk.

"I can't see that happening when you look at how the course tells kids to say no -- walking away, strength in numbers, avoiding the situation and changing the subject, for example," said Richer.

"There's nothing physical in the approach to saying no.

"In fact, our instructors stress no violence in any lesson we use to teach kids how to say no."

Richer said DARE has had a positive impact on local students, especially when older kids are involved.

"We try to use a model student, usually a previous DARE graduate or a Grade 11 or 12 student.

"Younger kids look up to the older students and a positive message is passed on to them in this respect."

Richer said from what he's seen, those who oppose DARE couldn't be more wrong.

"I totally, 100 per cent, disagree with their assertions that this program does more harm than good.

"Not only does the program help kids stay away from substance abuse, it also creates a better report between them and the police.

"What they learn in DARE sinks in and makes a difference in our attempts to keep kids away from what we call the gateway drugs -- cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana."