DARE program still goes strong in Franklin County

June 03, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Until someone comes up with a better solution, police and school officials in Franklin County say they plan to stick with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program as a tool to teach youth to resist drugs and violence.

The Seattle Police Department received national attention recently for dropping its DARE program, saying it doesn't reduce drug use. But in Franklin County it's alive and well and growing.

"I really think our program is working because there's no indication that it's not," said Chambersburg Police Chief Michael DeFrank.

The drug program came to Chambersburg in 1990, with two borough police officers teaching a curriculum of 16 one-hour lessons to sixth-graders.


Now eight officers are involved, targeting nearly 650 sixth-graders and an eighth-grade class at Corpus Christi School each year. There are plans to expand the program into the third and ninth grades.

"I would rather have the students go through this program than no program at all," said Dr. Thomas Todd, assistant principal at Chambersburg Middle School and DARE coordinator.

From the outset, Todd said, the program was well-received by students and parents. He has yet to hear a complaint, he said. "We really believe in it here at the school," he said.

Aware of the strong peer pressure and increasing availability of drugs among young teens, Todd said the program provides students with options and help in making decisions about drugs and violence.

"At this level I feel it's working," Todd said.

Chambersburg Area School District recently received a state grant of $18,000 to run its DARE program this year.

Washington Township Police Department was the first in the county and third in the state to implement the DARE program in the Waynesboro Area School District in 1988.

"We saw back in 1988 that we were having problems and very little was being done to educate the kids," said Washington Township Police Chief Kurt Braun, who said the availability of drugs is "horrendous."

Five DARE officers, and two more currently in training, cover the fifth and sixth grades in the district and visit with students in kindergarten through fourth grades.

Besides covering the day's lesson, the officers often eat lunch with the students, participate in recesses, greet them at the school in the morning and send them off at the end of the day.

"Overall there's a strong indication that DARE has an influence," said Dr. Thomas Rocks, director of pupil services.

In a survey conducted in Waynesboro Middle School in 1995, Rocks said 90 percent of the students responded that the DARE program affected their decisions on the use of drugs, with 46 percent of those stating it affected them strongly.

Eighty-four percent of the students said the program positively affected their attitudes towards police, with 38 percent of those stating it had a strong effect.

A better relationship between police and teens is one of the good "side effects" of the program, Braun said.

But police and school officials say the program can't stand alone in its efforts to deter youth from drugs and violence.

Parental involvement is key, Braun said.

The decision also ultimately comes down to the individual, Todd added.

"Remember, students have to make a choice. If they make the wrong choice, that's their decision," he said.

Police and school officials admit it's nearly impossible to determine how well the DARE program is working. But most believe it's better than nothing.

"DARE can't be expected to take care of all the problems," Rocks said. "But it's one of the effective tools ... You can't say DARE is no good."

"You do what you feel you have to do until something better comes along," Braun said.

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