Pekin Police Department officials and Pekin District 108 officials are daring to try a new approach to fulfill the mission of the 23-year-old DARE program that officials say is ineffective.
Pekin Police Chief Ted Miller, a DARE officer himself at one time, said the program will cease to exist at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year. Pekin’s DARE program began in 1987. The police department fashioned its program after other national models.
Miller said that the decision to discontinue the program was carefully considered by both the school district and the police department.
Pekin Police Public Information Officer Mike Sanders said that DARE — known as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program — was simply not providing the results it was designed to achieve.
“Based on statistics and case studies around the nation, the program has essentially been ineffective as a whole,” said Sanders. “That’s not just in Pekin.
“There was a study in California that followed kids that took part in the DARE program and found that essentially the program made no difference for the kids.”
Miller said that the decision was not driven “primarily by money,” even though the economy is still poor and the state has cut funding for the program. The program costs $33,500 per year for the two DARE officers’ salaries and benefits for two days a week as well as materials needed for the program.
The two officers previously assigned to DARE will be reassigned to patrol duty, said Miller.
“The decision is not resource-driven, it’s about what’s best for the kids,” said Miller. “Studies indicate that if DARE is going to have any success, it should be a kindergarten through 12th grade program.
“That would mean a much larger cost to the community.”
While the DARE program will be lost, the police department will continue to work closely with District 108 schools to assist where the department is needed in its social/emotional program that deals with drug issues, among other things. He said his officers will be there about one time a week to talk about various issues.
Pekin District 108 Superintendent Bill Link said the district has been working on a social/emotional program for about three years now.
The social emotional/program started at the junior-high level in District 108 to establish a way to deal with the issue of bullying. It has grown to the point now where it will address the social and emotional needs of all of the children in the district, said Link.
Various agencies, such as the Pekin Police Department, the Tazewell County Children’s Advocacy Center, the Tazewell County Health Department, Tazwood Mental Health Center and others will participate in the curriculum. For instance, Pekin police officers will come and speak to students about drug issues, cyber-stalking and inappropriate text messaging, to name a few.
The material will be age-appropriate, said Link, with the younger students learning social skills, appropriate interaction with friends, appropriate behavior and more, said Link.
The program works for virtually every social or behavioral issue, Link said. Each school will tweak the program to fit issues children are dealing with at certain times.
District 108 Assistant Superintendent Leonard Ealey said during the pilot program last year that if the district-wide program doesn’t help a particular student, it may be that the intervention needs to take place outside the walls of the school with specialists in various areas. That’s where the outside agencies fit in.
The social/behavioral program will be a progressive one. Counselors will be heavily involved in the program, said Link. The program will be tracked by the district to determine what issues need to be addressed and what works and doesn’t work.