Left to right, assistant superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison, UCBOE Vice President Katie Loudin and President Dr. Tammy Samples, sheriff David Coffman, board member Kristi Wilkerson, superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus, board member Dr. Greenbrier Almond and Lt. Mark Davis.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Amanda Hayes.

BUCKHANNON — Drug Abuse Resistance Education, the hallmark drug education program known as D.A.R.E.,will be returning to Upshur County next year after a 20-year absence.

The Upshur County Board of Education gave its approval for the program to be taught in schools by the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department at this week’s Upshur County Board of Education.

Upshur County Schools previously had a D.A.R.E. program from 1992 to about 2000 in fifth grade classrooms. Lt. Mark Davis taught the program for eight years until he could no longer balance the program with his other duties and then it was taken over by another deputy. However, when that deputy left the department, no one else picked it up.

Bringing back D.A.R.E. became a goal of Sheriff David Coffman and Davis said he has researched the new D.A.R.E. over the past year.

“In light of the drug epidemic that faces every county and every state and we see that on a daily basis here, we want to bring this D.A.R.E. program back into the school system,” he said.

“The original general program covered drugs, alcohol, gangs and peer pressure,” he said. “They have restructured this program to meet the drugs that are in today’s society.”

That includes meth, huffing, vaping and synthetic drugs.

The new tag line with D.A.R.E. is Refuse, Explain, Avoid and Leave or REAL, according to Davis.

“These kids need a way out,” he said. “This particular program that they have restructured has a lot of role playing in it.”

Instead of listening to all lectures, the students will participate in role play to use skills and practice them to learn how to get out of situations where they are pressured to use drugs and alcohol.

“In the studies they have done, the evidence based programs show that these students are learning more about how to handle these situations when they have had a chance to practice it,” he said.

D.A.R.E. officers have to go to a two-week 80-hour training where they learn classroom management techniques and how to teach the program.

“When I taught it in fifth grade, once those students went on to middle school and high school there was no follow through,” he said. “This program here will allow us to have a D.A.R.E. officer in elementary school, one in middle school and a third in high school.”

Prevention Resource Officers Cpl. C.J. Day and Cpl. Rocky Hebb will teach the 10-week D.A.R.E. course at their schools while a third deputy will teach in the elementary schools.

“We are going to have a follow through which is going to be stronger than what we had from 1992 to 2000,” he said.

The program will be taught in fifth, sixth and ninth grades.

Board vice president Katie Loudin said, “The research says this didn’t work in the 1990s. I think we would be remiss to sort of ignore that point. I think you have made the case that it is a pretty different curriculum this time.”

Loudin asked if there was evidence that the new curriculum was working.

Davis said the surveys that showed D.A.R.E. did not work were done in urban areas where the circumstances were different.

He said the new program is seeing more results.

“On average, what they are showing now is a minimum of 33 percent of students are getting away from the drugs and are handling the pressure better,” he said.

“In Upshur County it made a difference,” he said. “It made a difference in people’s lives and it made an impact. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that there are students out there who are looking for a way out.”

“We want to bring this program back because these students are worth this,” he said. “I know what it stands for. I know what it teaches. I believe in what it does. You put your heart and soul into a program and I know the officers we have, they are going to do the same right here.”

Loudin said, “I don’t doubt your impact as an instructor or as an officer but West Virginia is ground zero for the opioid crisis and the opioid epidemic. If the surveys say it didn’t work in urban areas, I also have to think it didn’t work here. Or were we just talking about the wrong drugs?”

But Loudin said she was excited to have the program again.

“I think talking about it and bringing you guys in and your expertise is definitely needed,” she said. “We don’t have a plan B that is comprehensive other than guidance counselors and teachers doing the work they do every day. I’m struggling a little bit with what it looks like in this iteration.”

Davis said the opioid crisis hit after D.A.R.E.

The Upshur County Commission is willing to split the cost of the program, according to Coffman.

Day has applied to go through training this fall and will begin the program at B-UMS in January 2020. Once Hebb and a third deputy are trained, the program would begin in the elementary and high school in fall 2020.

Board member Dr. Greenbrier Almond moved to implement the program, seconded by board member Kristi Wilkerson and the motion passed unanimously. Board member Alan Suder was absent.

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All Rights Reserved.