By Michael Hill
D.A.R.E. New Jersey lost its two and a half year legal battle with D.A.R.E. America. So now, D.A.R.E. New Jersey no longer exists but D.A.R.E. America remains in some of New Jersey’s fifth and sixth grades.
“We have a bright future in New Jersey. Things will not change. We anticipate that most police departments and municipalities will continue with D.A.R.E. and D.A.R.E. America,” said D.A.R.E. America Regional Director Ron Brogan.
Part of the disagreement was D.A.R.E. America using a new drug prevention course called Keepin’ it REAL. A Penn State University study found it had good results for seventh-graders but an earlier version was ineffective for fifth-graders compared to a control group.
D.A.R.E. America says its spinoff for the elementary level is being reevaluated.
“We anticipate positive results,” Brogan said.
The non-profit that’s replaced D.A.R.E. New Jersey says that Penn State study showed Keepin’ it REAL fifth-graders had in increase in substance use compared to a control group.
“Testing a curriculum in a controlled group is one thing, but to put it out, broad based implementation of a non-tested curriculum? And then what happens when it shows that it was ineffective or caused an increase in drug use? What happens then? As parent, I’d be furious,” said Nick DeMauro, L.E.A.D. dxecutive director.
DeMauro spent 26 years with D.A.R.E. New Jersey. He now heads L.E.A.D. — Law Enforcement Against Drugs — that targets all grades, K through 12.
“One of our visions is being like the American Red Cross, what American Red Cross is to disaster relief, we want to be the charity for law enforcement,” DeMauro said.
DeMauro says L.E.A.D. has 900 officers spread out across New Jersey still in schools and teaching the old D.A.R.E. curriculum — Too Good for Drugs — that led to the legal fight.
“The bottom line is that it’s 2015. You can’t just use kids as guinea pigs. It’s gotta be proven effective. If it’s not proven effective and tested, it’s just not. And the New Jersey School Administrators Association set that standard. They said, you know what, enough. We’re not going to support any organization if they don’t have proven effective, evidence-based curriculum,” DeMauro said.
“We discarded that particular curriculum when we were doing our research for an effective curriculum. And New Jersey was clearly violating its charter with D.A.R.E. America, which is the parent organization. And they are required to teach the curriculum which is prescribed by D.A.R.E. America,” Brogan said.
For now, it seems with D.A.R.E. America and L.E.A.D., New Jersey schools will have an abundance of drug and violence prevention programs by police officers.