Effectiveness of Dare Programs

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program has been in existence since 1983.  What started out to be a program intended for one school district has been implemented in about 80% of school districts in the US and in more than 50 other countries.

The DARE program is a 17-week class taught by police officers.  Some schools offer the program during school hours while others run it as an extra-curricular activity.  During its initial years, the program was found to be very effective.  However, in recent years, research is showing that DARE is ineffective and sometimes even counterproductive.

Sadly, my friend Shelley would concur with the research.  Shelley has been our DARE adviser at the high school.  Students from the DARE club attend training in the early fall and then meet at least once a month after school.  One of the biggest activities that the DARE club does is to plan the after prom party.  The purpose of this party is to provide high school students with a safe alternative to the usual drinking parties that go on at one of the hills in the village.

To spark interest in attending the after program party, a lot of planning and money goes into the event.  Local businesses donate really awesome prizes, such as an iPad, a flat screen TV and video games.  Restaurants provide a variety of food, while the grocery stores provide bottled water, soda pop and juice.  Fun activities are planned and several chaperones are lined up.

A week prior to the prom, students are given the opportunity to sign a DARE promise–a promise not to drink or use drugs on the night of the prom.  They are also highly encouraged to sign up for the after prom party.  The students are informed that if they leave the party for any reason, they cannot reenter the party.

This last after prom party was devastating.  Shelley said that a number of students told their parents that they were attending the party.  They showed up for about an hour and left.  Those parents who could be reached by phone were notified that the students left.  That night two students were pulled over for DWI. Two other students were hospitalized for drug overdose.

Shelley said that she feels that the DARE program has been made a mockery.  She knows that some of the kids in the club drink and they admit that they are in the club because it will look good on their college application.

In its day, the DARE program was super effective.  But that was 30 years ago.  Maybe our students need a new wake-up call–a wake-up call before too many lives are lost due to substance abuse.


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