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Daring To Eliminate the D.A.R.E. Program

Rockwood School District parents are upset to discover district representatives decided Thursday to eliminate the popular drug-related education program traditionally provided to area fifth graders by local D.A.R.E. police officers.

Future Rockwood School District fifth graders will not be dared to graduate from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program, due to Rockwood officials deciding Thursday to end the district's nearly 25 years of participation in the national effort.

News of eliminating the popular program shocked many parents.

D.A.R.E. is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through twelfth grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug- and violence-free lives. Locally, the program has been executed during the fifth grade of elementary school, serving as a rites of passage for that important milestone year in students' education.

Schools within the Rockwood District have participated in the D.A.R.E. program since 1988, according to Chief Michael Wiegand.

Parents contacted Patch in a variety of ways, asking why the program would be eliminated.

As Lisa Kolaks Helterbrand posted yesterday on the Eureka-Wildwood Patch Facebook page:  "Rockwood School District has officially decided to eliminate the DARE program without parent involvement in the decision! Please keep in mind that the program does not cost the district any money, so this has nothing to do with budget cuts. This is the first time many of our children get to have a personal, positive relationship with a police officer and they learn so much valuable information, not only about drugs and alcohol, but about friendships, self-esteem, etc."

Wiegand said it was explained yesterday that Rockwood's health and physical education classes from kindergarten through fifth grade already instruct students in most of the topics covered in D.A.R.E. throughout the students' time spent in elementary school.

"Not taught is the different ways to 'say no' to drugs, and some role playing that the D.A.R.E. officers teach in the classroom, though," he said.

He said Rockwood speakers at yesterday's meeting, such as with the , said they want to expand the role of police in schools by having them assist in classrooms for other topics, such as safety, bullying, peer pressure, cyber safety, citizenship, drug free activities in October and community service.

"They said they value the officers' interaction with the students," Wiegand said.

Parents concerned about the D.A.R.E. program being dropped now are collecting comments, feedback and questions from other interested parents. Comments can be e-mailed by May 20 to sungazing@gmail.com.

Ironically, a D.A.R.E. graduation is planned today at in Eureka at 2:15 p.m.

D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles. According to the program's website, its success led to it being implemented in 75 percent of the nation's school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world.

Editor's Note:  Two inquiries to the Rockwood Communications team about the elimination of the D.A.R.E. program from Thursday and today were not answered prior to the publishing of this article. The article will be updated once a response is received.

One of two contacts provided to discuss the district's stance about D.A.R.E. is Karen Hargadine, principal at in Wildwood and head of the elementary principals who were involved in making this decision. Today, when Patch called Hargadine to ask for her perspective, an elementary staffer said she was out of the building for the day.

The second Rockwood contact is Jill Ramsey, interim executive director of Rockwood's elementary schools. However, her voicemail indicates she is a part-time employee who does not check her voicemails daily. Patch did leave a voicemail for Ramsey, and is awaiting a reply.

The number for Karen Hargadine is 636-733-4175; Jill Ramsey's phone is 636-733-2105. 

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