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Daring To Eliminate the D.A.R.E. Program

Rockwood School District parents are upset to discover district representatives decided Thursday to eliminate the popular drug-related education program traditionally provided to area fifth graders from local D.A.R.E. police officers.

Future Rockwood School District fifth graders will not be dared to graduate from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program, due to Rockwood officials deciding Thursday to end the district's nearly 25 years of participation in the national effort.

News of eliminating the popular program shocked many parents.

D.A.R.E. is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through twelfth grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug- and violence-free lives. Locally, the program has been executed during the fifth grade of elementary school, serving as a rites of passage for that important milestone year in students' education.

Schools within the Rockwood District have participated in the D.A.R.E. program since 1988, according to Chief Michael Wiegand.

Parents contacted Patch in a variety of ways, asking why the program would be eliminated.

As Lisa Kolaks Helterbrand posted yesterday on the Eureka-Wildwood Patch Facebook page:  "Rockwood School District has officially decided to eliminate the DARE program without parent involvement in the decision! Please keep in mind that the program does not cost the district any money, so this has nothing to do with budget cuts. This is the first time many of our children get to have a personal, positive relationship with a police officer and they learn so much valuable information, not only about drugs and alcohol, but about friendships, self-esteem, etc."

Wiegand said it was explained yesterday that Rockwood's health and physical education classes from kindergarten through fifth grade already instruct students in most of the topics covered in D.A.R.E. throughout the students' time spent in elementary school.

"Not taught is the different ways to 'say no' to drugs, and some role playing that the D.A.R.E. officers teach in the classroom, though," he said.

He said Rockwood speakers at yesterday's meeting, such as with the , said they want to expand the role of police in schools by having them assist in classrooms for other topics, such as safety, bullying, peer pressure, cyber safety, citizenship, drug free activities in October, and community service.

"They said they value the officers' interaction with the students," said Wiegand.

Parents concerned about the D.A.R.E. program being dropped now are collecting comments, feedback and questions from other interested parents. Comments can be e-mailed by May 20 to sungazing@gmail.com.

Ironically, a D.A.R.E. graduation is planned today at in Eureka at 2:15 p.m.

D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles. According to the program's website, its success led to it being implemented in 75 percent of the nation's school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world.

Editor's Note:  Two inquiries to the Rockwood Communications team about the elimination of the D.A.R.E. program from Thursday and today were not answered prior to the publishing of this article. The article will be updated once a response is received.

One of two contacts provided on behalf of the district's stance about D.A.R.E. is Karen Hargadine, principal at in Wildwood and head of the elementary principals who were involved in making this decision. Today, when Patch called Hargadine to ask for her perspective, an elementary staffer said she was out of the building for the day.

The second Rockwood contact is Jill Ramsey, interim executive director of Rockwood's elementary schools. However, her voicemail indicates she is a part-time employee who does not check her voicemails daily. Patch did leave a voicemail for Ramsey, and is awaiting a reply.

Lisa May 13, 2011 at 05:41 PM
Thank you Julie, for reporting this very sad news for our children! Both my children are DARE graduates and I cannot emphasize enough the positive impact this has had on them. Not only were they educated about the dangers of all drugs and prepared to handle peer pressure situations, but they were given the opportunity to form a positive relationship with a Eureka Police Officer. Officer Jenn is widely loved and respected in Eureka, and is someone the children have had a chance to know personally through this program. It is a complete shame that Rockwood would think of eliminating this program without parental input, especially since it does not cost them a dime. I am so disappointed!
Michael Blacketer May 13, 2011 at 06:23 PM
This is just plain stupid. There isn't really a nicer way to put it. Why cancel a program that costs the district nothing? Last I checked Free is good right? I think this one might actually upset me more that the "no activity buses" this year, and the proposed busing changes for next year. At least those are based on the need to cut spending. I would LOVE to hear the official reply explaining to us parents how this is a "good" idea...
Diane Engle May 13, 2011 at 10:51 PM
Shame on Rockwood!! Chief Wiegand said that Rockwood officials gave the reasoning that the DARE curriculum is taught in PE. This may be true but the DARE class concentrates the information into a 6-8 week course, is presented at a time when the kids are starting to get exposed to drug peer pressure, and gives the kids a chance to talk to an officer who sees the effects of drug use on a regular basis. The kids feel comfortable asking the officier questions that they know will be answered truthfully with real world examples. I would suggest that Rockwood parents and students attend the school board meeting next Thursday to voice our displeasure with the elimination of this program.
Wes Sir May 17, 2011 at 03:17 PM
To me it is appalling to think the Rockwood School District would eliminate a program that doesn’t cost them ANYTHING and to lay this on the shoulders of teachers who will probably face larger classroom sizes due to the spending cuts Rockwood will face in the years ahead. There is no way our children will get the focused attention to the drug problem today and how to “say no” when teachers will have to find time to “slip” into their curriculum, maybe 5 or 10 minutes once a week, or once a month. I thought we are improve the education to our children, not cut back on it; simply a very bad move by Rockwood School District. My children (now in their 30’s) still follow the values learned in this program. Rockwood needs to rethink this decision and bring this valuable program back to our children.
ALBERT N.EARLS May 23, 2011 at 04:18 AM
Well folks that's the name of their Game, by the way, Rockwood will be receiving more of your Rea estate taxes in 2012,according to the taxing Authority. So, pay up or Rockwood will take some thing else away from the Students LOL..they'll never answer your Questions

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