Putting the ‘R’ in DARE

For the next two months students at the Cranbury School will participate in the anti-drug, anti-violence program.

By:Jessica Beym
   At the Cranbury School, students learn their three R’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic, every day.
   But this week, the fifth-graders are adding another R to their studies: resistance.
   "Does anyone know what DARE stands for?" Cranbury Police Sgt. Michael Owens asked a class of more than 35 students Jan. 11.
   The students followed the lesson in their workbooks and read the letters of the well-known acronym back.
   DARE, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is a nationally recognized program that gives children the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs and violence, according to its Web site.
   For the next two months, the 72 fifth grade students will spend about 45 minutes a week learning how to make positive decisions, resist peer pressure and media influences that portray the use of drugs.
   In the first step of the program, students learned on Wednesday about using the word DARE as a decision-making model, with the letters standing for Define, Assess, Respond and Evaluate. Sgt. Owens encouraged the kids to offer examples of how DARE could be used in everyday situations.
   "It’s not just a lecture. We try to facilitate discussion in the classroom and get the kids involved in the conversation," said Sgt. Owens.
   Next week, the students must be prepared to discuss alcohol and tobacco advertisements and the recently passed bill to ban tobacco smoking in public places in New Jersey.
   After the 10-week program, students will be graded on their participation and a report showing what they have learned from the class.
   The DARE program was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and is used in over 80 percent of the school districts in America and more than 54 countries. The classes are taught by certified police officers who must complete 80 hours of training in areas such as child development, classroom management and teaching techniques.
   Sgt. Owens has been teaching the DARE program to the students at the Cranbury School since former police Chief Harry Kleinkauf introduced it three years ago. This year, Officer Jeff Morley has joined Sgt. Owens as the two official certified DARE instructors in Cranbury.
   The two officers spent Wednesday morning getting to know the students and some of their hobbies and also letting the students get to know them.
   "It’s also a good way for them to meet the police officers and get to know us on a more personal level," said Sgt. Owens.
   After talking about hobbies, sports and other activities, Sgt. Owens had the students write down their ideas.
   "It’s important to remember these activities and use them to stay in a positive, drug-free environment," Sgt. Owens said to the class.
   The timing of teaching these lessons, Sgt. Owens said is crucial.
   "This is a good staging point," said Sgt. Owens. "As they get older, they face new peer pressures and are more likely to follow the crowd. At this point, they are able to take the information and use it as they go through the upper grades and through life."