D.A.R.E.? Get REAL!

Vol. 13 No. 10

head eletter Vol13 No10 DARE

For over a decade, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program—D.A.R.E.—was the go-to curriculum for educators seeking to warn their students about the dangers of illegal drugs and other risky behaviors. However, while D.A.R.E. didn’t work, that a new program has risen to take its place—and it’s a REAL step in the right direction.

“Refuse, Explain, Avoid, and Leave”—REAL—is the new acronym that young people learn in the latest safety education curriculum, called Keepin’ it REAL. One of the curriculum’s developers, Michelle Miller-Day, described Keepin’ it REAL to Scientific American as “not an anti-drug program.” Rather, the program is designed to teach students how to identify and avoid dangerous or risky situations while effectively communicating their stance to peers.

With its distinct focus on communication and reasoning techniques instead of the life-wrecking side effects of illegal substances, Keepin’ it REAL still helps students develop anti-drug mindsets and steer clear of bad decisions—something D.A.R.E. failed to do.

As Scientific American points out, D.A.R.E. was originally developed by police officers—not prevention experts—as an awareness and public relations campaign. If students understood the repercussions of abusing substances, the thought was, then they’d avoid drugs and illicit activities altogether.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The Department of Justice formally evaluated the D.A.R.E. program in 1994. The study found that D.A.R.E. failed to show long-term improvement in teens’ tobacco use and no improvement whatsoever in alcohol and marijuana usage. A later Department of Justice report in 2009 quoted a total of thirty studies—all of which showed no statistically significant changes in students’ use of harmful substances after going through the D.A.R.E. program in either the short- or long-term.

D.A.R.E. America, the organization that ran the original drug awareness campaign, has officially switched to the Keepin’ it REAL program. Instead of lectures based on scare tactics, teachers talk for a few minutes before turning students loose on group-based role-play activities—exercises that former D.A.R.E. instructors say are enjoyed by the students.

Sgt. Christine Rapp told Scientific American that “The interaction and group work is awesome because we learn by doing—much more than just by hearing. When [students] learn the ways to say no to friends, they absolutely love getting up in front of the class and acting those out.”

Those four ways to “say no to friends” are the core of the curriculum, resulting in the program’s titular acronym of REAL (“Refuse, Explain, Avoid, Leave”). And students do seem to be saying no, if the studies are anything to go by. A large study of students in 2003 who went through the Keepin’ it REAL program found that the graduates of Keepin’ it REAL were less likely to participate in risky behaviors or indulge in “gateway drugs” like alochol and tobacco than their peers.

So if you’re considering revamping your school’s current drug awareness program —or seeking to implement one at all—you might consider Keepin’ it REAL.

Additional ISM resources:
Private School News Vol. 8 No. 9 Drug Screening Employees
ISM Monthly Update for School Heads Vol. 13 No. 2 Fact or Fiction? 5 Strange Ways Students (Try to) Get High
ISM Monthly Update for School Heads Vol. 12 No. 10 Prescription Drug Abuse Is (Still) a Problem in Private Schools
ISM Monthly Update for Business Officers Vol. 13 No. 5 Drug Testing: The Basics

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 29 No. 6 Random Drug Testing Policies for Students

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