December 23, 2012
Due to the tragic events recently, there has been a push to have police officers in the schools. I agree with this idea and until recently, police officers were already there. Due to budget cuts and other misconceptions however those programs were discontinued. If communities want officers back in their schools, they should bring back DARE and other programs just like it.
Several years ago, there was a discussion on the effectiveness of DARE. It was also discussed whether it was worth having an officer in the schools talking to fifth graders about drugs and alcohol. Some stated the program was ineffective and a waste of time. I have found it to be the exact opposite. I have been teaching DARE in my local school district for over eight years and have been able to see the effects of the program on my students. First, I found there was a bridge built between the students and myself. Some of the children came from families who did not like the police for instances that may have occurred in the past. These students learned to trust me and came to realize that not all police are bad. Next I saw how these kids looked up to me. We are a positive role model to these students, role models that some may not have in their environments outside of school. We fill that void for many children. Lastly I realized I am a person they can trust and go to when they are in trouble and in need of help. Over the years I have had several students from my DARE and GREAT programs come to me for help and advice years later. I even had one student who moved to another town come back looking for me. That student had run away from home and went to my police station looking for me to help. This was several years after that person was in my class yet that child found me to be the best person to help them out of a difficult situation. From a social aspect, these programs are very beneficial to our children.
Some argue that DARE and other programs do not bring anything to the table academically. Again I disagree. These programs are not a class where the cop stands in front of a class and tells students to “Just Say No”. Maybe they started out this way, but the curriculum has evolved immensely over the years. Both GREAT and DARE have been revised with the educational component in mind. They include teaching styles which are designed to reach all learning abilities: visual audio and kinesthetic. The programs have gotten away from lecturing and now focus on students learning through critical thinking. The class is given real life situations and scenarios which they can relate too. They then are assigned problems to solve by coming up with the answers themselves. This approach has been extremely popular with all my classes and they get a lot out of it. The program is overwhelmingly better than lecturing. These kids are learning and retaining more than some realize.
Lastly, there has been a recent call for police officers to be in the schools. I totally agree with this. After the recent tragedy in Newtown Ct., I responded to an elementary school in my jurisdiction prior to the staff arriving and greeted them. The teachers were grateful and happy to see me. It gave them a sense of security. It also gave them someone to talk and vent to about their anxieties and fears over what had happened. Many of them know me personally and felt relieved their DARE officer was in the building for them. The students loved having me at the door greeting them as well. Even the younger ones who I had not taught yet enjoyed being able to ask me a ton of questions before going to their first class. The entire building was relaxed. The same happened later in the day when I went to our Middle School where I teach the GREAT program. Staff came to me with their questions and concerns as well. Students were given time in my GREAT classes to discuss any concerns they might have had. Everyone benefitted from the experience.
Police officers should be in our schools and the tools are already there to make that happen. Programs such as GREAT and DARE are those tools to get us in there. We are an asset to the students, the faculty and the community as a whole. We make everyone feel safe and secure. We also provide a vital asset to the children by teaching these programs and bridging a gap. Programs like these should be kept in our schools and funding continued. We are a benefit to all.