Parents questioned the Columbia Public School District’s methods for drug prevention at a forum with Superintendent Phyllis Chase on Wednesday.
The forum, called “Parent Engagement: Combating Substance Abuse,” was held twice, once at 7:30 a.m. and once at 6 p.m., at the Columbia Public School’s administration building. One concern voiced by participants was the ineffectiveness of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
“The best way to approach a child is not with a lecture,” said Lauren Anderson, who is a sophomore at MU.
Anderson, who attended the evening forum, said the DARE program should not be introduced to students until about the Sixth or Seventh grade and shouldn’t be so “cutesy.” She said reformed drug addicts and other real-life examples will better educate children about the danger of drugs than teddy bears and gimmicks.
Anderson works at Gentry Middle School as a mentor through MU in the Women of Worth Program. She said Gentry is similar to the middle school she went to in Arkansas, and thinks the program introduces kids to drugs instead of warning them of negative effects.
Sarah Read, the event moderator and president of Columbia Parents for Public Schools, which sponsored the forum, said some who support the DARE program say it is introduced too late because some students are introduced to drugs as early as five or six in their neighborhoods.
In addition to the DARE program, parents said they need ways to communicate with other parents. Those in attendance said they also wanted more community programs to keep students occupied when they’re not in school.
Parents also received advice from Chase on how to help students avoid drugs. During the evening session, she shared comments with the audience that she gleaned from students during a lunch Wednesday afternoon.
“They need to know what the community standards are,” Chase said. “Adults see these behaviors inside and out of school and do not challenge them.”
She said students also suggested longer suspensions for students who bring drugs to school. Many students said the current suspension is a joke.
“Drugs are a part of a much larger issue - helping our kids grow up,” Read said.
She said parents at the morning session suggested safer places to hang out, service projects to keep kids busy and more small group discussions on drug issues.
Three people attended the morning forum and about 10 people participated in the evening session.
Chase said some parents do not want to attend forums on drug abuse because they are afraid people will assume their children take drugs. She offered other suggestions for involving parents, including having programs on Channel 16 — the districts cable channel — to educate parents in the privacy of their home or making the Columbia One Read a book involving drug abuse where parents can feel free to discuss the book.
Chat with Chase is part of an ongoing series to open up community discussions with Superintendent Chase, and other Board Members. The next chat session will be held Nov. 16 and will focus on early childhood education.