Parents wishing to protect their kids from drugs should shield them from DARE.
For those who don’t know, DARE is the zero tolerance drug education program that recently embarrassingly posted a satirical article to their website entitled, “Edible Marijuana Candies Kill 9 in Colorado, 12 at Coachella.” One of the funnier bits of fiction from that story: “For every one joint of marijuana, four teenagers become burdened with pregnancy.” Of course, none of it is true. Nevertheless, the piece was published on the DARE website and left there for over a month, with no retraction or explanation given after it was scrubbed from the domain.
Upon discovery of the screw up, I spoke to a DARE Regional Director Ron Brogan, who stated that it was a “simple error of a story that got picked up through a filter.” Brogan refused comment on follow-up questions, like how the story remained on the DARE site for the entire month of April. He also had no comment when asked if parents should trust DARE to educate their kids when the program can’t even differentiate real news from the fake stuff.
A little background for those not familiar with the organization: DARE recruits cops without teaching credentials to come into schools and indoctrinate students. As such, their drug prevention curriculum foolishly fails to make a clear distinction between cannabis and heroin. They also encourage children to snitch on their parents for drug use, though they’re not so quick to help those kids when the feds take mommy and daddy away.
Not surprisingly, DARE has a long history of humiliating itself. In 1992, researchers at Indiana University discovered that graduates of the program there had higher rates of hallucinogenic drug use than did those who never enrolled in DARE. In 2001, US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher added them to the government’s blacklist of “Ineffective Primary Prevention Programs.” Piling on, in 2003 the US Government Accountability Office found that DARE had no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing youth illicit drug use, and that some populations of students were actually more likely to use illicit drugs after being exposed to the program.
In 2009, DARE admitted their previous 15 years had been a dismal failure, and launched a laughable “Keepin’ it Real” curriculum re-write that touts their new appreciation of science-based evidence. Nevertheless, there’s little indication that anything has really changed beyond the way that they deliver hyperbole.
Why is this important? Two months ago, Shona Banda, a medical marijuana mom with Crohn’s disease, had her home raided in Kansas after her 11-year-old son mentioned his mom’s marijuana use to his local DARE program. The kid was subsequently removed from his mother’s custody, the resulting lesson of that class being that cops aren’t your friends.
Still, despite their online fails and failures of practice, this dysfunctional program continues to receive federal and corporate funding. Another lesson: don’t trust everything you read on the internet, especially if it’s on the DARE site.
RECOMMENDED READING: School systems and parents looking for alternatives to DARE should check out the book Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs by Marsha Rosenbaum of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Safety First” is offered in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew, Russian, Russian and Czech versions; more than 300,000 copies have been downloaded.