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Springdale Elementary students celebrate graduation from DARE program

DARE designed to teach drug resistance, good decision making to elementary school students

Cayce, SC (James Bowers) - Some fifth-grade students at Springdale Elementary School were recognized for learning some very important lessons Tuesday as the school held a graduation ceremony for students in its D.A.R.E. program. The school’s participation in D.A.R.E. was overseen by Springdale Police Department Chief Kevin Cornett. Though most associate the D.A.R.E. curriculum with its original and primary purpose of promoting resistance to the use of illegal drugs as well as alcohol and tobacco, the modern version of the D.A.R.E experience incorporates the teaching of other important attributes kids will benefit from as they grow up. These include self-awareness and management, responsible decision making, relationship and communication skills, and handling responsibilities and challenges.

These concepts are underscored by the “Dare Decision Making Model” which is outlined using an alternate meaning of the “D.A.R.E” acronym: Define (the challenge, problem, or opportunity), Assess (the positive or negative consequences), Respond (make a choice), Evaluate (whether or not you made the right decision). The program consisted of a ten-week curriculum aimed at helping kids make what Cornett calls, “safe and responsible choices in life.” Some of the situations that D.A.R.E. prepares students for situations including how to respond to a bully or when witnessing bullying, peer pressure, both positive and negative, and other stressful situations the kids may face. Cornett adds that another purpose the Springdale D.A.R.E. program serves is to help build the relationship between area children and law enforcement personnel. “It’s so important that kids see us in a positive way and know that they can talk to us.” Cornett said. Cornett says that recently a sixth-grade student consulted with the chief on how to handle a bullying incident. He uses this story of an example of the positive benefits of healthy student-public servant relationships.

The students were enthusiastic during the Tuesday ceremony at Springdale Elementary’s temporary Frink Street campus. Both Kevin Cornett and SC State Representative Micah Caskey spoke to the students and congratulated them on their hard work while noting the importance of what they learned during their D.A.R.E. courses. The students were all presented with certificates for completing the program. Also recognized were winners of the school’s essay contest, one for each class,as well as an overall winner.

In the 1990s, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, more commonly known by its acronym DARE was one of the most widespread initiatives in American elementary schools. DARE, created in 1983 by then-Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates, aimed to teach 4th-6th graders as well as other students about the dangers of recreational drug use. The program featured either teachers or local police officers (DARE officers) providing instructions about the use of drugs and their consequences. They were also taught how to respond if they detect the use of drugs by their peers and loved ones.

The original version of the program drew criticism for reasons such as an alleged unintentional promotion of drug use. Some said that making a child aware of the substances that they might not have encountered until years later, if ever, thus defeating the purpose. Many schools discontinued the program, and it is popularly assumed that D.A.R.E. is now defunct. Cornett notedTuesday that Springdale Elementary School is the only school in Lexington School District Two to offer the program, and one of very few in the state of South Carolina.

In 2009 D.A.R.E. received a major overall to include the aforementioned general life skills and anti-bullying elements. Cornett was struck by the positive benefits of the new and improved D.A.R.E. program. That’s why he decided to offer it at Springdale Elementary. Cornett adds that the department also offers Gang Resistance Education and Training for fourth and fifth grade students and a version of D.A.R.E for kindergarten students designed to teach safety skills such as “stranger danger.” The programs are fully funded by the Springdale Police Department, which provides all necessary materials.Cornett says he would be glad to help promote D.A.R.E. at other schools in the area.

For more information, visit the D.A.R.E. South Carolina website at https://dare.org/south-carolina/.

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