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DARE programs are being cut from some local districts, while expanding to more classrooms in others

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cape Girardeau police officer A.C. Walker discusses the dangers of alcohol with the students in her DARE class Tuesday at Central Middle School.
(Fred Lynch)
While some Drug Abuse Resistance Education programs in Missouri school districts are expanding -- even reaching new student audiences -- other districts are struggling and have been forced to cut the course.

The Jackson School District, which in previous years brought in a police officer to teach its middle school students, cut DARE from its curriculum this academic year.

Jackson superintendent Ron Anderson said the district didn't cut DARE, a program known for teaching students certain skills to avoiding negative behavior, because of its effectiveness but because of budget constraints. A grant had previously covered the cost of DARE for the district, but without the grant it paid around $35,000, according to Anderson.

"I think it was pretty straight forward, you know, it was a budget issue," he said. "All entities are looking at staffing and where they can adjust and move forward to get through this period of time."

Jackson Police Department Lt. Rodney Barnes, who taught DARE for three years in the district, said while the program is effective in teaching the dangers of drugs, alcohol and violence, its main benefit was the positive interaction students have with law enforcement.

A lesson book is provided to DARE students at Central Middle School.
(Fred Lynch)
Barnes recalled the use of a DARE box, which allowed students to ask an officer questions anonymously.

"Every question in that box was answered," Barnes said. "It's a great program. It's unfortunate it wasn't able to continue."

Without monetary contributions from area businesses and civic organizations, Cape Girardeau DARE officer A.C. Walker said her program, which serves thousands of students in 11 schools, would be at risk of being cut, too.

"We used to get government funding for the program; we are 100 percent donations now," said Walker, who took over DARE in Cape Girardeau two years ago.

Each year there are many repeat donors and this year, the VFW was one of the businesses who made a significant donation to the program. Walker said she's just happy to have the community's support.

"It takes a lot of leg work, getting out there and letting people know DARE is still here and still works," Walker said.

Walker's lesson plans for her DARE students vary based on the grade level and issues the school may be having that year. Walker said last year the Central Middle School was seeing a problem with prescription drug abuse and Internet-safety-related issues.

"I'm having more gang-related issues this year and a lot more marijuana issues than normal," Walker said. "We even get to talking about guns, because they want to know. I don't want them to get curious and then decide to do it when they could have just asked and got the curiosity out of their head then."

Walker leads discussions at the sixth-grade level at the middle school and also at various grade levels at in the Nell Holcomb School District, at Trinity Lutheran School, Cape Christian School, St. Mary's and several other area schools. At each school Walker visits in Cape Girardeau, the course lasts at least 10 weeks. Her course often hits 14 weeks, though, she said, because the students always want to know more.

She teaches a DARE course titled "Keeping It Real" for eighth-grade students that includes topics like huffing, gang-violence and Internet bullying. Walker makes sure the students are aware of safe ways to use networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace and their cell phone -- if they've been allowed the privilege by their parents. The course doesn't leave out DARE's central message, which is to provide students with skills to refuse offers to use drugs or engage in other high-risk behaviors.

Walker said she is able to connect with students on a different level than most DARE officers because her parents struggled with drug abuse and violence. Her father was murdered by a rival gang member when she was an a toddler.

Walker said she shares her story with the students and asks them what they think happened to the child involved. They never guess, she said, that the story is about her.

"I tell them 'When I talk to you about this, I know exactly how it feels,'" she said. "I'm very real with my kids, because I understand the pain that goes with it."

Recently, at the school's request, Walker brought her DARE program to the sixth- and seventh-graders at the Cape Girardeau Alternative Education Center, where students have had the chance to view a police officer in a different light. Walker has had two classes with the students so far this school year and she said she's already noticed a change in their attitude. She's at the alternative school once a week for 60 minutes.

"These are kids who, when I initially started coming, they thought it was funny to have weed, wear gang-affiliated clothing and to talk about what they've seen," she said. "When I come in now, after they learned my story, they don't think it's so funny anymore. I'm taken more seriously."



Pertinent Address:

215 N. Louisiana St., Cape Girardeau, MO

40 S. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

330 N. Spring Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

1651 W. Independence St., Jackson, MO

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Good!!!!! The more cops we can keep away from our children the better.

-- Posted by kissrules2001us on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 1:29 AM

another waste of tax payer money !

-- Posted by ad..man on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 5:38 AM

It is usually those who continually complain about the police are the same people who are enraged when they dial 911 and the police don't respond in 5 seconds.

-- Posted by ParkerDaws on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 5:45 AM

LOL...Good point, ParkerDaws.

-- Posted by 2times2 on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 6:25 AM

But Jackson had the money to start a 7th grade football team. Imagine that. Always can find the money when it comes to football...band/art/dare/teachers, no funds for you but the Football Gods always smile upon Jackson and shower them with the money. Amazing...

-- Posted by nObama on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 6:52 AM

I would also question the effectivness of this program and certtainly the use of police officers in drug abuse prevention. That is simply my opinion and I am sure many will disagree. I can think of much more effective ways to help prevent drug abuse and meth addiction. I have not the time to share many but one would be to have meth addicts who have recently been arrested made to tell their story and show these children what they looked liked before meth use with photos. Let them explain to the kids how they became addicted and the bad things they had to do to support the addiction. Most children I know have a difficult time getting past the uniform and badge on a police officer much less learn about the dangers of drug abuse. I will always support the LEO's effort to combat meth use and their job.

Most police officers have never experienced drug addiction instead, they only see the aftermath and effect. More emphasis needs to be put on the "cause" in my opinion and bringing in live examples for these kids to experience and hear would indeed have an impact IMHO

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 7:32 AM

At one time the main goal of the DARE program was to get kids to snitch on their parents. I think it has matured since then...

-- Posted by bobby62914 on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 7:51 AM

To the effectfulness of the D.A.R.E. program...how do we know how effective this program is? Yes, it seems to be rather ineffective from the outside but how do we know for sure? Do we really know how many kids choose to stay away from alcohol and other types of drugs because of their involvement with this program? Sure, we see and hear of kids who do choose to partake in the use of these drugs, but how many articles have you read about the kids who don't? We will never know because we are such a negative driven society.

-- Posted by s32j20s12 on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 8:01 AM

Well, I would say that the D.A.R.E. program has been more effective and successful upon these students... than the implementation of the 7th Grade team has been upon Jackson football.


-- Posted by DonT15 on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 8:53 AM

What else would you expect from a union-backed government monopoly?


-- Posted by Hawker on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 11:07 AM

Greywolf -- I agree that your example of having reformed meth addicts come and speak to students would be a powerful statement. However, of course, you know as well as I do that some silly parents would scream and cry if they found out that convicted felons, etc, were being allowed in our schools (even if escorted by proper security).

On that same note, the selection of Officer Walker to lead the D.A.R.E. program seems like a good one. She is young and female, which would help students "get past the uniform". And she seems to be passionate about what she is doing. While she is not a recovering meth addict, the article states how her life has been affected by drugs and gang violence.

I remember the D.A.R.E. program from when I was a kid. I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where I was sheltered from drugs, gangs, etc., but I think that D.A.R.E. certainly helped me later on. For instance, I am not a smoker today in large part because I remember learning that nicotine is one of the very most addictive substances there are, and I remember seeing pictures of the "black lungs" and such that smokers developed over time. If the D.A.R.E. program was to be phased out, then I would certainly hope that another facet of the school curriculum would expand into this niche. It is extremely important that students are educated about these kinds of things. There are too many people that would like to look the other way and ignore the problem.

-- Posted by DonT15 on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 12:38 PM

Please, if you want to save the taxpayers money shut down one of the most corrupt organisations, the police force!!!! I have never met a police officer that I liked. Now for those people that want to say "Well he does not like the police because he has been arrested" Here are the facts. I have never been arrested or ticked. I am a college grad working on my masters and also a disabled vet and I still hate the police with every fiber of my bening.

-- Posted by kissrules2001us on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 12:55 PM


Yep your right. I am from the old school and often forget the new rules and regulations.I can see red tape stuck all over my idea.

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 2:22 PM

As a parent of a student who went through Officer A.C.'s DARE classes, I can tell you that it was excellent! My daughter was definitely able to 'get passed the uniform', and this is primarily because of Officer Walker's down-to-earth attitude with the kids. The information she gave was very informative, and the kids felt very open about talking with her. Officer Walker and the DARE program are an asset to our schools and our community!

-- Posted by #1packergirl on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 2:27 PM

Can someone tell me whatever happened to Bill Ferrell when he was caught using DARE funds in Scott County for personal use?

-- Posted by freefaller on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 2:34 PM

Not convinced 1packergirl, but I am glad you found the program to be excellent. Now, what can we do about your poor pick in football teams!


-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 3:43 PM

I wish we had Officer Walker teaching DARE when I was a kid. Wow, she's hottest cop I've ever seen!

-- Posted by OlderEagle on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 6:51 PM


I have been associated with law enforcement for part of my life, and still know a number of very fine officers, and I might add, they are very fine citizens and family men too.

You have a right to your opinion, everyone has one, but my opinion of what you said makes no sense at all. It would be like me saying that I hate all college graduates and especially if they are disabled veterans.

Go ahead and hate all the cops, but remember that you just might need the help of one someday. I suspect if that day should come, you just might have an attitude change.

-- Posted by arrestthem on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 8:40 PM


I would rather DIE than ask a cop for help. However, if I saw someone else hurt, yes, I would call the cops to help someone else. But for me I will NEVER ask a cop for help!!!!!

-- Posted by kissrules2001us on Wed, Oct 13, 2010, at 11:59 PM

arrestthem: but my opinion of what you said makes no sense at all

arrestthem, I am sorry I did not make my self clear. My point is simple. Many people state that it is only the law breaker and criminals that dislike the police and that the common folk love the police. I just wanted to show that I am not a law breaker or a criminal and I still hate the police.

-- Posted by kissrules2001us on Thu, Oct 14, 2010, at 12:01 AM

nObama ...your avatar sucks...

-- Posted by ad..man on Thu, Oct 14, 2010, at 5:36 AM


I respect your opinion, but I do not agree. It's only your business why you feel as you do. Cops are really no different than other citizens, and there are good and bad in any profession. The majority that I have known just happen to be good.

-- Posted by arrestthem on Thu, Oct 14, 2010, at 6:27 AM

That's okay, kissrules2001us. The cops generally don't wait for you to ask for help if you're about to die. Unless, of course, your stupid little tagline is tattooed on your forehead. Then you might get to lie there and bleed a while.

-- Posted by Marion_Morrison on Thu, Oct 14, 2010, at 9:31 PM

Marion_Morrison: I think you have mistaken a doctor for a police officer. See its a doctor that saves a persons life not a cop. They should have taught you that in pre k

-- Posted by kissrules2001us on Thu, Oct 14, 2010, at 9:48 PM

My son IS a Jackson Middle School Student. I'd also be interested in knowing how a school that has to make "budget decisions" based on "budget constraints" according to Mr Anderson still manages to find enough extra money in that budget to start a new football team for the same school.

-- Posted by Catbert on Fri, Mar 4, 2011, at 9:02 PM

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