“The whole core of the D.A.R.E. program is not just teaching them about drugs and alcohol, it’s teaching them to make safe and responsible decisions,” Hollie McKamey, an investigator for the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and D.A.R.E. instructor, said. “If they can make safe and responsible decisions regarding alcohol and tobacco, then they can make safe and responsible decisions regarding peer pressure, regarding bullying, regarding stress, anything.”
According to www.dare.org, D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, began in Los Angeles in 1983 and has grown to be taught internationally with a focus on students ranging from grades K-12.
“There are 10 lessons that we go through and they cover every topic from the health effects of drugs, tobacco, alcohol, to stress, to peer pressure, to bullying. It encompasses everything a fifth grader will see in their lifetime,” McKamey said.
She said while fifth-graders are young, they are approaching a time when they will encounter pressures associated with drugs and alcohol.
“The risks for fifth graders, unfortunately, is that it’s in the schools. If it’s not rampant in the schools, it’s going to be out in the community,” McKamey said. “... It doesn’t have to be illicit drugs — the marijuana, the cocaine — we talk about prescription drug abuse and that is on the rise and they have access to it.”
One of the most discussed topics this semester, McKamey said, was bullying.
“Almost every single kid we talked to has either been a victim of bullying; they have been a bystander, which is somebody who witnesses bullying and has an opportunity to help; or they have bullied themselves. We go over the numerous reasons why [bystanders] don’t take that opportunity and we teach them how to overcome those reasons and provide some help,” she said. “We talk about reporting, we talk about the difference between telling and tattling and we also talk about anonymity and how they can be anonymous when reporting bullying.”
McKamey said it has been important to educate students on how to confront friends who make poor decisions and to recognize the repercussions of spending time with friends who make poor decisions.
“We tell the students that they’re going to have to choose their friends very wisely and it’s going to be very hard to tell your friend no and we go over the different ways to tell your friend no,” she said. “If your friend gets mad at you, they’re not really your friend, and we try to instill in them that you need to choose the friends that you want to be with later on in life because if you make the wrong choices now, you’re going to continue making those choices down the road.”
Student Paxton Dunlap explained to The Daily Tribune News some of what she has learned this semester in the D.A.R.E. program.
“I’ve been learning about how to resist drugs and alcohol and other things that can harm us and our lives,” Dunlap said.
If ever offered drugs or alcohol, Dunlap said she would use the “Skipping CD” method, which involves saying no repeatedly.
“I’m going to try and figure out who is my friend and who is not and I’m going to keep with the people who are right [for me]. I’ll stay with people at my school who are with me now,” Dunlap said.
Kobe Cochran said he learned about the different forms of bullying and their consequences.
“There’s a lot of different types of bullying that can affect you in different ways such as social bullying, which is either people saying things behind your back or talking to you bad, and all the types of bullying can really hurt your feelings even if it’s something like a simple text [message],” Cochran said.
He said students also were taught how to react to a situation that involves bullying.
“We’ve been told that when you know what the bully is saying is not true, you don’t let it affect you because you know that it’s just a rumor; it’s just a lie.”
D.A.R.E. is being taught at all Bartow County elementary schools throughout the year. Beginning in fall 2014, the program will extend to the county’s middle schools.