Pine Bluffs Police Officer Char Madden teaches D.A.R.E. to Pine Bluffs Elementary School sixth-grade students.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) is taught only in Laramie County School District No. 2 in Wyoming.
Laramie County Officer Kurt Wilson said the program can be expensive and the coordinator from Cheyenne is planning to retire. Pine Bluffs Police Officer Char Madden had an interest in teaching D.A.R.E. and asked Wilson if she could take over the Pine Bluffs D.A.R.E. program.
In eastern Wyoming, the D.A.R.E. program’s core curriculum is targeted to six graders. Madden teaches 26 sixth-graders at Pine Bluffs Elementary School. Wilson, teachers 30 sixth-graders at Burns Elementary and 18 at Carpenter Elementary.
This is Madden’s first year as a D.A.R.E. instructor. Madden said her first year has been exciting and she’s happy to have her daughter in her first class. Madden said she was interested in teaching D.A.R.E. because she wanted to be active in the school. In September, she got certified to be a D.A.R.E. instructor.
Madden said there’s a lot of role playing and the students write in journals about what they’ve learned from the lessons. She also has a competition for the students to wear their D.A.R.E. shirts every Wednesday. This helps the underclassmen see the shirts and get them excited about D.A.R.E.
“If I can make a difference in one child’s life, then it’s worth it,” Madden said. “It pays back.”
Wilson became a D.A.R.E. officer about 22 years ago. Wilson said his oldest daughter was in his first class. In the early 90’s, School Resource Officers weren’t very common. Wilson thought it was important to have law enforcement in the school so kids could see the other sides of law enforcement. Wilson said police officers deal with a lot of negative situations, but D.A.R.E. is not one of them.
Wilson also said everyone’s name is anonymous, and he tells the kids he is not there to find anyone breaking the law or to arrest anyone’s family members. He is simply there to discuss drugs and violence.
Wilson said during his time as a D.A.R.E. instructor, he’s learned how to communicate with people. He’s not always going to need to be the big tough guy.
“It’s OK to let your guard down and visit with the community,” Wilson said. “I can take my experience as a D.A.R.E. instructor and apply it to my professional job.”
Wilson said more people relate to him as the D.A.R.E. officer and D.A.R.E. is a great way to help people.
D.A.R.E. is an 11-week program. The program has gone from 17 weeks to 10 weeks and now to 11 to meet the federal requirements. D.A.R.E. is an extracurricular activity and is optional to take. Wilson said D.A.R.E. is the only program that uses law enforcement for this amount of time. Madden said some schools use their School Resource Officers to teach drugs and alcohol.
Wilson said some of the problems he deals with in D.A.R.E. are the misconceptions about tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and “everybody’s doing it.” He also said the program is constantly being updated. In this current version, he covers peer pressure, effects of drugs and alcohol, alternative activities and bullying. Wilson said he started covering bullying about 10 years ago. Bullying changes from time to time since there are new ways of bullying, including cyber bullying.
Since problems change over time, some lessons have been taken out. However, some things have also been added. Madden said she has added marijuana to some lessons. Madden is able to include lessons that are more relevant to the area. Even though marijuana is not standard in the curriculum, she said, there are still a lot of questions about the drug since Wyoming is close to Colorado.
Wilson said in order to direct the program to the sixth-graders, he asks the principals what issues they see in the school and Laramie County. He also talks about current events to personalize the program.
To celebrate the sixth-graders journey through the D.A.R.E. program, District No. 2 would like to send the students to a University of Wyoming basketball game against Boise State University. Wilson said this is a great example of an alternative activity. The D.A.R.E. officers are looking for sponsors to help with cost. Madden said she would like to raise money for the students’ tickets so parents won’t have to worry about the cost; the kids can have fun and meet other D.A.R.E. students. Madden said some businesses have already donated, and to contact her to make a donation at (307) 245-3777.
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