Cops Field Team For Schools In The Wake Of Dare’s Demise, City Hopes New, More Varied, Program Will Reach Students
The cool, souped-up DARE Camaro the kids oohed over is gone. So are the catchy anti-drug slogans and nifty black T-shirts worn by thousands of young graduates.
When Drug Abuse Resistance Education disappeared from Spokane public schools - a victim of city budget cuts - so did a hard-hitting approach to educating kids about the dangers of illicit drugs.
The replacement - To Educate And Motivate, or TEAM - is touted as costing less and teaching more.
It offers younger kids safety-oriented lessons on a variety of topics, but turns DARE’s 16 lessons on resisting drugs into a one-time shot for sixth-graders, lasting one or two hours.
When TEAM makes its citywide classroom debut this fall, parents and teachers say they don’t know what to expect.
“It’s really unclear where we’re going,” said Warren Wheeler, a sixth-grade teacher at Woodridge Elementary in the Indian Trail neighborhood.
Those concerns are being echoed within the police department, which developed the new program with Spokane District 81.
TEAM aims to put officers in every Spokane elementary and middle school.
Unlike its predecessor, the program addresses 20 topics - from crossing the street safely to dealing with gangs - for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. DARE was presented only to sixth-graders.
“Drugs, alcohol and violence are concerns, but they are just other safety concerns,” said Sgt. Mike Prim, TEAM supervisor.
TEAM was presented to the city last year as a way to put nearly 30 volunteer officers in Spokane classrooms one day a week.
But volunteers have been scarce.
Despite a revamped lesson plan, TEAM has lost the support of six of the seven neighborhood resource officers who taught the pilot program in middle schools last year.
“We feel we didn’t have enough time to do both TEAM and neighborhood resource officer duties,” said Bill Schaber, the officer assigned to the East Central neighborhood.
Teaching duties now fall on six officers assigned full time to the program - the same staffing DARE had. They will be assisted by three volunteers - a neighborhood resource officer and two patrol officers.
Teachers and workers from other law-enforcement agencies are expected to help out.
Parents and teachers, meanwhile, continue to lament the loss of DARE.
“With DARE, we had really good officers and really good response from the children,” said Jim Harrison, who teaches fifth and sixth grades at Balboa Elementary in northwest Spokane. “We haven’t even seen the TEAM program yet.”
Police Chief Terry Mangan insists everyone benefits from TEAM because it is locally designed, more comprehensive and less expensive. No-frills TEAM doesn’t come with race cars and free T-shirts.
“DARE is an outstanding program, but the big issue became affordability,” Mangan said of the national program. “With TEAM, we’re reaching more kids, covering more subject areas.”
“It’s our way of developing long-term relationships with children and families,” Prim said. “We’re just convinced that those relationships are the key to solving long-term community problems.”
The police department killed off DARE at the end of the 1995-96 school year. The 16-week program had been taught to sixth-graders since 1990.
Mangan cited budget cuts and questioned DARE’s effectiveness.
In 1996, the department spent about $550,000 on DARE. TEAM is expected to save taxpayers about $200,000 a year, Mangan said.
DARE’s demise drew passionate pleas from children and parents who believed in the program, prompting Mangan to work with parents and educators to develop a worthy substitute.
A committee made up of officers, District 81 employees and parents helped design the new program.
The hope was to improve on what police administrators said was the “most important part” of DARE: positive interaction with officers.
“By spreading the program out and having more involvement from school personnel, it’s more of a partnership than DARE was,” Mangan said. “We want children to know officers and get the most out of it.”
But some teachers see TEAM as less comprehensive than DARE.
“It’s not nearly as long or as intense as the DARE program,” said Woodridge’s Wheeler. “The (TEAM) officer was there maybe four times last year. With DARE, they were in the classroom every week.”
Outside the city, DARE is still considered a useful tool to help steer children away from drugs and alcohol.
In unincorporated areas of Spokane County, six sheriff’s deputies teach more than 40 DARE classes each school year.
“We’re not going to reach every kid,” said Deputy Terry Liljenberg. “But I’ve had enough parents come up to me and tell me how it helped their kids. It’s still an effective program.”
DARE, started in 1983 in Los Angeles, is designed to bring officers and children together to learn about drugs and alcohol and how to not give in to peer pressure.
Until recently, more than 75 percent of public school districts in the United States used the program.
But police departments have begun dropping out, blaming small budgets and critical studies.
They may have made the right decision, according to a recent study from the American Psychological Association.
The study looked at 356 sixth-graders who completed the DARE program and 264 students who didn’t. The same group was studied again in 12th grade.
“The only clear effect that DARE had six years after the program was that male high school seniors who participated in the program used harder drugs like amphetamines/barbiturates, cocaine, LSD, significantly less than those males who weren’t in the program,” the authors concluded.
“The program failed in lessening male and female students’ use of alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana.”
But most people agree that lessons on drug and alcohol prevention are important to keep in any classroom.
“We’re just pleased we’re able to carry on some kind of classroom work,” said Cynthia Lambarth, District 81 associate superintendent. “What we liked with DARE was the beginning of the relationship that was started with the police department.
“(TEAM) is not what the DARE program was. But we’re happy to have this.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:
TEAM tackles these subjects:
Being a community helper - kindergarten
911 - first grade
Pedestrian safety - second grade
Being home alone - third grade
Following rules, bicycle safety - fourth grade
Choices, bullies, conflict, safety patrol - fifth grade
Peer pressure, gangs, drug use, assertive communication - sixth grade
Juveniles and the law, shoplifting, truancy, weapons in school - seventh grade
Leadership, citizenship - eighth grade
Source: Spokane Police Department
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Robin Rivers Staff writer
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This sidebar appeared with the story: TEAM WORK TEAM tackles these subjects: Being a community helper - kindergarten 911 - first grade Pedestrian safety - second grade Being home alone - third grade Following rules, bicycle safety - fourth grade Choices, bullies, conflict, safety patrol - fifth grade Peer pressure, gangs, drug use, assertive communication - sixth grade Juveniles and the law, shoplifting, truancy, weapons in school - seventh grade Leadership, citizenship - eighth grade Source: Spokane Police Department
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Robin Rivers Staff writer The Associated Press contributed to this report.