The City of Fulton Police Department has been teaching the DARE program for nearly 20 years. I am Officer Lennet Whitmore, a specially trained officer involved in teaching the 10 week program to 5th graders in the Fulton City School District. There were 13 fifth grade classes in the 2008-2009 school year which consisted of three classes in Lanigan Elementary School, three classes in Granby Elementary School, three classes in Volney Elementary School and four classes in Fairgrieve Elementary School. Since the beginning of the program there have been thousands of DARE graduates from the Fulton City School District.
DARE is an excellent example of Community Policing at its best. The DARE Program brings schools, parents and law enforcement together to combat a serious problem in today's society, drug use by our children. DARE has been a success in the Fulton Community with positive comments from School Officials, Students, Parents and Community Leaders.
The DARE program is aimed at Alcohol, Tobacco and Marijuana, which are often referred to as the "gateway" drugs. These drugs are the most commonly used by our young people and the theory is that if the young people will reject these gateway drugs, the use of the more illicit drugs will be significantly reduced. Almost all users of illicit drugs, including Cocaine, Opiates and Methamphetamines admit to having started out using Alcohol, Tobacco or Marijuana in their high school years.
DARE is more than just a drug awareness program. DARE is a life skills program which promotes good decision making. Teaching students about the consequences of their actions ahead of time may encourage them to make appropriate decisions and help them avoid the pressures of today’s society. Many of these lessons are taught through skits and role playing. The students not only learn how to say no but also how to think on their feet. DARE teaches students how to stand up to peer pressure and feel good about it.
In these difficult economic times many school districts have been forced to drop their DARE programs. This is not an indication that the DARE program is not successful. A national survey done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that overall drug use among teens and adolescents continue to decline. Marijuana use is down almost 20% since the 1990's. DARE cannot take full responsibility for the decline in drug use but the DARE program and other programs like it have undoubtedly made a significant contribution to it.
We are very fortunate that the City of Fulton has continued to support the DARE program. We are proud of our DARE program and can boast that we are one of the few school districts on Oswego County that still offer the program. I believe that education is the first step in combating drug use. As I tell the students in class....Knowledge is Power.
For other information on drug use trends, log onto the Monitoring the Future website or the NIDA website.
Officer Sophia Graves
Fulton Police Department