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Cave City Police Officer James Roberts hands out workbooks to Caverna Elementary fifth-graders

CAVE CITY — Police officer James Roberts taught his first D.A.R.E. class at Caverna Elementary School on Thursday morning to a group of fifth-graders.

Roberts will be teaching D.A.R.E. classes at CES one day a week for a period of 10 weeks.

Before the class got underway, Roberts took a moment to explain what he will be teaching the students.

“We have the better decision-making model. It’s a program to basically help them make smart, safe choices [and] to weigh out risks, consequences and things like that,” he said.

Chloe Barnett takes a peek at her new D.A.R.E. workbook Thursday morning before the class starts. Seated next to her is Shelby Branning, middle, and Sequoria Copass. All three are fifth-graders at Caverna Elementary School.

Roberts continued that he will also be covering the health effects of alcohol and tobacco with the students.

“That’s what the program covers. It’s changed since I went through it,” he said. “When I was younger, it was here’s what the drugs are. Here’s the health effects. They are bad for you. Things like that. Now it’s more along the lines of we are going to teach you life skills that you are going to carry with you for the rest of your life; how to be respectful, how to deal with bullying and peer pressure. That way they can be their own person and make their own decisions.”

During the class, Roberts told the students they can write down questions they may have and place them in a box if they need to communicate with him about anything, even things that may be occurring at home.

He also told the students that when talking to him about a particular situation that may involve drugs to not use a person’s name, but rather to say, “someone I know.”

It has been several years since the D.A.R.E. program had been available to students in the Caverna Independent School District.

“With the drug problem on the rise in Cave City, it was something we felt like we needed to reach out to the kids and talk about,” said Cave City Police Chief Terrill Riley. “This was a good place to start. I’m really excited about bringing it back here.”

Riley could not quote a percentage of drug arrests made by his department on Thursday without going back and looking at citations, but said he has seen an increase in drug arrests since he has been with the department.

Of the drugs he sees most in the community, it is primarily methamphetamine and prescription drugs. Riley has yet to see very many heroin arrests.

“They are talking about it possibly coming into this area. We’re prepared for it if it does. We hope it doesn’t make it here,” he said.

Riley’s department is preparing for it by becoming more educated about heroin; learning how to identify it and how to handle it if officers do find it.

Tina Southwood, principal of CES, said the school has a goal of building partnerships with community agencies, such as the Cave City Police Department and that the school is excited to partner with any agency that will benefit the students.

“I know it’s kind of been a lost art over the years, so it’s just good have it back in schools,” she said, adding she remembers taking part in D.A.R.E. classes when she was an elementary school student. “Sometimes people, kids in general, see police officers in a negative light, so it’s good to see them in a positive way.”

Near the end of the class, student Savannah McGavic said she thought the class was “pretty good,” and that she learned to “never do drugs.”

Madison Lindsey, also a student in the class, said, “I think it’s going to be a good program for our school because there’s a lot of stuff going around Cave City right now … and they need the police and stuff to take care of it. Maybe this program will help us stay away from stuff like that.”

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