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Back to Sept. Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 164 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS SEPTEMBER 1999

Makes No Difference If Kids DARE

LEXINGTON, KY - Another new study has been released indicating that the ever popular anti-drug program DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) has little or no impact on drug use among young people. Last month, the University of Kentucky (UK) released the results of a 10-year follow-up study that shows DARE graduates are as likely to use drugs in high school as those who have not gone through the program.

Published in the August 1999 issue of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the UK study followed 1,002 students who had either taken DARE instruction or "a standard drug education curriculum" in the 6th grade, and reevaluated them at age 20. Researchers noted few differences between the two groups in terms of actual drug use, attitudes toward drugs, or self esteem. "In no case did the DARE group have a more successful outcome than the comparison group," they wrote.

A 1998 study by the University of Illinois at Chicago showed a slight increase in drug and alcohol use among suburban students who had gone through DARE. (See Education Reporter, May 1998.) Sponsored by the Illinois State Police, the study tracked students in various economic groups for six years, and included urban, suburban and rural youth.

About 80% of elementary schools in the U.S. sponsor DARE, which is taught by local police officers who provide information that, in theory, should discourage students from trying drugs and help bolster their resistance to peer pressure. Some schools include students as young as the first grade in the program.

An op-ed piece in the August 12 Chicago Tribune stated: "The [DARE] program, which includes lessons on self-esteem, assertiveness and stress management, uses everything from free T-shirts to 'graduation' certificates to a trendy web site in order to appeal to youngsters. If success were measured in the number of T-shirts given away or certificates handed out, DARE would indeed be successful. But it's not."

An editorial in the August 28, 1998 Houston Chronicle called upon that city's schools to "just say no to DARE." The editorial cited independent research by University of Houston social science professor, Bruce Gay, which showed that Houston's DARE program "actually increased negative feelings toward law enforcement," and was only "marginally successful" at its goal of reducing drug abuse.

The Chicago Tribune opined that DARE remains popular because it's economical - most of the program's funding comes from local sources and federal grants - and because "it makes teachers and administrators feel they're doing something to address a very real problem." As long as this "high-profile pseudo-solution" is available, the editorial states, "there is little incentive to find out what might really work" to help keep kids off drugs.



 
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