D.A.R.E. Will No Longer Try To Steer Kids Away From Pot

Just like me at the age of 25, D.A.R.E.—the non-profit program that sends police officers to elementary schools to scare kids away from drugs (and to hand out t-shirts later worn ironically by dudes in their twenties)—will no longer try to avoid marijuana. Well, I guess it will avoid it entirely, as anti-drug sentiments will be dropped from the curriculum.

Blogger Mike Riggs breaks the news over at Reason:

"D.A.R.E. America has determined that anti-drug material is not age-appropriate," the state affiliate leader, who asked not to be identified, told Reason. "The new curriculum focuses on character development."

News of a major curriculum change was first reported in early November when an elementary school resource officer in Kennewick, Washington told KNDU25, "The new curriculum starts as of December for us…it does not bring up the subject of marijuana at all." (Marijuana is the only illicit drug that D.A.R.E. claims to have reduced the use of through its educational programs. Drug reform advocates have slammed D.A.R.E. for its characterization of pot.)

It seems as though the program will continue to focus its efforts on educating about alcohol abuse and persuading kids not to take up smoking, assuming that D.A.R.E. alumni will be able to use the same sort of thinking to avoid other illegal, addictive substances. It’s also an attempt to remain credible, Riggs asserts, as some studies have proven that the program actually encourages drug use. (I guess that’s why we shouldn’t teach kids about sex, huh?) Here’s a breakdown of the new curriculum, titled the keepin’ it REAL campaign:

The subject of marijuana is attended to in the new D.A.R.E. kiR elementary curriculum. The topic, however, is addressed only after it has been established to be an age appropriate topic for the individual concerned classroom.

A wealth of research data substantiates the two most common and dangerous drugs with which elementary aged students have knowledge or familiarity are alcohol and tobacco. These are the substances, across all segments of the population, with the highest use levels at this age group. The experience or knowledge of alcohol and tobacco creates an environment in which it is appropriate to talk with young students about these drugs.

The D.A.R.E. kiR elementary curriculum provides information about drugs, focusing on alcohol and tobacco. Students learn to apply the information, within the constructs of a decision-making model, and to employ resistance skills in making safe and responsible decisions about drugs. While we do not focus individually on all possible drugs which can be abused, we believe the students can apply the learned decision-making model and developed resistance skills to other substances such as methamphetamine, prescriptions drugs, cocaine/crack, heroine, etc.

For the general population of 5th/6th grade students, the topic of marijuana is not age appropriate. Most students in this age group have no basis of reference to the substance. Research has found that teaching children about drugs with which they have never heard of or have no real life understanding may stimulate their interest or curiosity about the substance.

Here’s a thought: why not screen Requiem for a Dream for fifth and sixth graders? It certainly solidified my No Needles In My Arm stance that I’ve upheld for many years. And then you can also bring in a New Yorker on cocaine to lecture them about, well, anything, because being stuck in a room with some chatty jag on coke has also kept me from touching the stuff myself. And, duh, show them a few episodes of Breaking Bad. But there’s no way to keep people from smoking pot, I think, unless you can argue that laughing hysterically and getting super into nature documentaries is a bad thing. Sorry, just keepin’ it real. 

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