Mary Moreno, Caller-Times March 14, 2001, Wednesday Copyright 2001 Caller-Times Publishing Company Corpus Christi Caller-Times March 14, 2001, Wednesday
(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) -- Like every Tuesday for the past few weeks, Delia Ramos' fifth-grade class at Galvan Elementary listened as a Drug Abuse Resistance and Education officer lectured, this time on stress and how to handle it.
They may not be listening much longer.
If the school board agrees, the Corpus Christi Independent School District will join a growing list of school districts abandoning DARE, the grandfather of all drug education programs. The plan proposed by Corpus Christi police is to replace DARE with a program authored by local police and school officials.
Police Cmdr. Bryan Smith drafted the proposal to eliminate DARE. He said he is concerned DARE is too rigid to cater to specific problems in the city's schools.
"I don't want to give anyone the impression that DARE is a bad program because it's not a bad program," Smith said. "We just could be doing a whole lot more to address the specific problems of Corpus Christi."
Under Smith's plan, the five DARE officers would be added to the Police Department's Directed Patrol program. The police department would also move three crime prevention officers to the Directed Patrol, which now has eight officers.
The combined 16 officers then would be assigned to districts divided along middle school boundaries for CCISD and the other 16 school districts in the city. The officers would coordinate with educators, parents and students to formulate plans geared specifically to meet the schools' needs, Smith said.
These officers also would work with neighborhoods to prevent crime and solve problems.
Smith said his plan would work because the problems that affect schools are the same as those experienced by the neighborhoods. The officer assigned to an area would become familiar with all aspects of that area.
The school board hasn't heard Smith's proposal yet, but some board members said they are open to a new approach.
"It's a good program and it's served its purpose, but perhaps it's time for a change," said Board Vice President Manuel Flores. "I think DARE has run its course, not just in Corpus Christi, but in the nation."
A 10-year study by a research group from the University of Kentucky found that the effects of DARE on drug use and attitudes toward drugs were negligible when compared to another group of students who had gone through shorter, less expensive drug prevention programs.
"Although the DARE intervention produced a few initial improvements in the students' attitudes toward drug use, these changes did not persist over time," the study concluded. "More importantly, there were no effects in actual drug use initially or during the follow-up period."
Senior Officer Erich Bauch, who has been a DARE officer for more than five years, said that while DARE needs revamping to be more flexible, the program works.
"I have mixed emotions," he said. "DARE hasn't always been quick to change. I know something has to be done, but I'm not sure doing away with a whole program is the answer."
DARE has been the district's drug prevention program since a pilot program was launched in the 1988-89 school year. The estimated $265,000-a-year program, in which officers visit fifth-grade classes once a week for 17 weeks, is paid for through a combination of the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools grant program and police department funds.
But the police department needs school board approval to do something different with the Safe and Drug Free Schools grant funding.
Board President Pinky Brauer said she has been a fan of DARE for a long time, and believes in its effectiveness, but adds that a program specific to Corpus Christi would be worth exploring.
"I've always liked the DARE program," she said, "but if we can bring it more specific to Corpus Christi that would be phenomenal."