After a 13-year hiatus, the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program has returned to Marceline, and is again providing students with the tools they need to ‘make good life choices.’ Former Marceline Police Lt. and Sgt. Jim Courtney administered the DARE program in Marceline from 1995 thgrough 2000.
Although DARE has been described elsewhere as ‘a demand-side drug control strategy,’ its facilitator in Marceline stresses that the tools his fifth graders are acquiring can be applied to a range of decisions they may be called upon to make. “The public should understand that this isn’t just an anti-substance-abuse program; it’s about making good life choices in general,” explains Capt. Bob Donelson.
In fact, Capt. Donelson provides his students at Walt Disney Elementary and Father McCarten Memorial Schools with a four-step rational decision-making process that aims to do much more than just spell D-A-R-E; it begins by ‘Defining the problem,’ then requires the child to ‘Assess the choices available’ with a consideration of the potential consequences for each choice, ‘Respond’ by selecting the choice with the least negative consequences, and ends with an ‘Evaluation’ or review of the outcome.
Realizing that his fifth graders will be better equipped to resist peer pressure if they have more than one way to counteract negative influences, Captain Bob, as they fondly refer to him, reviewed resistance strategies during his Tuesday afternoon class at Disney Elementary: (1) Avoid the situation by taking a different route to a destination; (2) Associate with a large number of peers who aren’t inclined toward making bad life choices; (3) Simply walk away from bad situations; (4) Change the subject if the conversation turns toward doing something that will probably not end well.
Tuesday’s DARE session at Disney Elementary opened with an opportunity for the 39 students to share challenges they had confronted since last week’s class. “How can I encourage my grandpa to stop smoking?” asked one young man. “Why do people make tobacco if it’s so bad for you?” asked another. Capt. Bob encouraged the other students to respond and gave his own brand of minimally judgmental but no-nonsense answers: “It would be great if everything available for us to consume was good for us, but that’s not always true.”
After viewing a brief PowerPoint (slide) presentation on risky decisions, the students paired off, with one suggesting a bad choice and the other using a DARE strategy to resist. They then acted out the negative peer pressure in front of the rest of the class, and their classmates identified the DARE strategy being employed. At the close of the exercise Capt. Bob asked, “Can you combine resistance strategies?” In unison the students answered with a resounding “Yes!”