With the elimination of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program from Columbia Public Schools, the Columbia School Board is trying to find different approaches to teaching fifth-grade students about substance abuse.
Elimination of the program is in response to the six school resource officers taking time away from patrolling Columbia’s middle and junior high schools to lead DARE classes at elementary schools, said Detective Jeff Westbrook, a spokesman for the Columbia Police Department.
A method that was to be discussed at the board meeting on Tuesday involves incorporating the concepts into the health curriculum and then reinforcing these concepts in middle school with the resource officers, said Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education for the district.
John Warner, a school resource officer and chief DARE instructor, agreed with the importance of introducing the topic at this age.
"The idea of placing it at a fifth-grade level lets you talk to them before they have the potential for drug abuse," Warner said.
Warner hopes that though the DARE program has not worked for all, an equal replacement will be established as a "starting place" for drug education.
"I can say as a 20-year veteran of the DARE program, I've seen the positive results over and over again," Warner said.
The decision to eliminate DARE was a joint effort of the schools, the Police Department and the district, said Jessie Haden, a Columbia police spokeswoman.
With the elimination of the DARE program, what other methods should be put in place to educate students about substance abuse?