D.A.R.E. lives on in Tennessee schools to curb drug use, violence

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – We wanted to know if and how D.A.R.E. is being used in Middle Tennessee, and we found the program is about to launch a new lesson on opioids.

In one fifth grade class in Dickson County, students are practicing different scenarios.

One child pretends to offer the group alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, and the others act out a response.

“We talk about what not to do whenever you grow older and what to say,” said Luke Markem.

They’re in class with D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education and was created in 1983 as an officer-led classroom series focused on drugs and violence.

“For the first time, police officers would be in the schools, and this case, teaching a viable curriculum so that was unique,” explained Lloyd Bratz, the program’s regional director.

(Photo: WKRN)

He told News 2 that with the influx of school resource officers, the novelty of officers in classrooms wore off.

Then came the studies questioning D.A.R.E.’s effectiveness and a decrease in funding. D.A.R.E. saw decline.

“D.A.R.E. in of itself is still quite large. I think it’s kind of ebbs and flows,” Bratz said.

So the program revamped its lessons and is still being taught in classrooms across Middle. Tennessee, primarily at the fifth grade level.

Sgt. Scott Staggs is the D.A.R.E. officer with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. We caught up with him at Stuart-Burns Elementary School.

“The core of the curriculum has stayed the same. D.A.R.E. has really tried to keep up with the times about changing things that are going on,” Staggs told News 2.

At its core, D.A.R.E focuses on decision-making.

“Our program, the research has said, is to go to decision-making. Are the kids making a good decision regarding whatever it is? Alcohol, tobacco, drugs, marijuana, opioids, whatever it may be,” said Bratz.

(Photo: WKRN)

There are 130 different D.A.R.E. officers across Tennessee. Soon, each will be trained in a new class on opioids.

“Opioids are an important issue and important enough for us to incorporate that,” Bratz said.

As D.A.R.E. continues to re-invent itself, it continues to be on an upswing. Last year, the surgeon general praised it.

The students in Sgt. Staggs’ class did, too.

“We’ve learned about not to use drugs or alcohol, how to handle if someone offers you alcohol and drugs and how alcohol and drugs affect your body,” said student Hayley Stinson.

“D.A.R.E. has taught me to hang out with the people who don’t really do drugs or anything like that, just non-users,” said Amelia Nesbitt.

Sgt. Staggs said the program works.

“One of the best things when I’m out, maybe at the grocery store, and I have a kid come up to me and says, hey! That’s my D.A.R.E. officer! and introduces me to their parents,” he told News 2.

“I mean, that’s fantastic because that kid remembers me and they want me to meet their parents. To me, that means so much that I’ve bridged that gap,” the sergeant added.

The opioid dare course will launch in the next couple of weeks.

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