UP­DATE: St. Mary’s Sher­iff to Put DARE Back in Schools

The Washington Post Sunday - - Metro Week - By Me­gan Green­well

St. Mary’s County Sher­iff Tim Cameron an­nounced last week that he will make good on his cam­paign prom­ise to re­turn the na­tion’s most pop­u­lar drug ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram to the pub­lic school sys­tem this fall. Cameron ( R) de­feated in­cum­bent David D. Zy­lak in Novem­ber, based in large part on his prom­ise to re­turn the Drug Abuse Re­sis­tance Ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram, known as DARE, to county schools. Zy­lak had been widely crit­i­cized for elim­i­nat­ing it in 2004.

When the Board of County Com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved its 2008 bud­get Tues­day in ad­vance of a pub­lic hear­ing next month, it al­lo­cated a $ 3.5 mil­lion in­crease to the sher­iff’s of­fice. A large part of that money will fund the hir­ing of four deputies, one of whom will be­come a sec­ond mid­dle school re­source of­fi­cer and drug ed­u­ca­tion teacher.

“ Th­ese are very real and tan­gi­ble re­sults of re­ceiv­ing more money,” Cameron said af­ter the bud­get was ap­proved. “ We did very well as an agency in this bud­get. I think it’s im­por­tant, and the cit­i­zens told me they wanted it in the schools, so it’s com­ing back.”

But ques­tions about the ef­fec­tive­ness of DARE — the same ques­tions that led Zy­lak to cut the pro­gram out of a tight bud­get — per­sist. Sev­eral stud­ies from gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions and re­search univer­si­ties have con­cluded that young adults who grad­u­ate from the DARE pro­gram are no less likely to use drugs than coun­ter­parts who do not.

“ Nu­mer­ous well- de­signed eval­u­a­tions and meta- analy­ses ... con­sis­tently show [ DARE has] lit­tle or no de­ter­rent ef­fects on sub­stance use,” the U. S. sur­geon gen­eral’s of­fice wrote in 2001.

Sev­eral par­ents of el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school stu­dents dis­agree, say­ing that such re­search does not take into ac­count the po­ten­tially life- chang­ing ef­fects that the “ Just Say No” mes­sage can have on stu­dents in a county with a grow­ing drug prob­lem.

The sher­iff’s of­fice recorded 689 drug- re­lated ar­rests in 2005, up from 514 two years ear­lier. Three of the deputies whose po­si­tions were ap­proved in next year’s bud­get will join the nar­cotics team.

“ It’s easy to see the drugs are get­ting more com­mon on the streets and in the schools,” said Char­lene Green­well, who has three chil­dren in St. Mary’s schools. “ Of course the kids should be hear­ing from the po­lice about the neg­a­tive ef­fects.”


In his cam­paign last year, St. Mary’s County Sher­iff Tim Cameron vowed to re­in­state the DARE pro­gram in schools. His pre­de­ces­sor, David D. Zy­lak, had elim­i­nated it be­cause of ques­tions about its ef­fec­tive­ness.

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