I have read with interest the recent articles relating to DARE education and the comments made by Mr. Clement and Mrs. Kelly. Firstly, I would like to say that I am very happy that members of the Castlegar Community are discussing drug prevention initiatives like DARE and I would like to point out a few important issues in regard to the comments made.
The DARE component in British Columbia is supported by the (Not For Profit Society) DARE, BC which financially supports this program, the educational materials and T-shirts that the children receive, with the exception of the learning manuals, paid for by the RCMP. The officers who teach DARE do so while on shift and in some cases on their own time. The program is an additional duty with no extra compensation. Many of these officers are parents performing this duty because they care about the information children receive in order to make healthy choices.
I am not sure what Mr. Clement is referring to when he states that, “our present drug education is based on a 50 year old drug prohibition policy.” For a number of years now drug education has focused on children making healthy choices and providing them with universal prevention messages. These messages are not only delivered by the RCMP, but community groups such as Freedom Quest and Castlegar Community Services to name two. The current framework functions within a Community Prevention Education Continuum (CPEC).
These professionals have the ability to perform secondary prevention and harm reduction strategies with students after delivering a universal prevention message. This framework helps meet the needs of all students. The DARE program is but one component that is implemented within CPEC. These prevention messages are based on providing comprehensive, timely information on socially relevant topics directly related to making healthy choices. This method has seen first time use of marijuana and alcohol in the Kootenay area decrease in communities that work within a CPEC. These statistics are not from another country.
As for Mr. Clement’s comment regarding DARE officers scaring children, I could not disagree more. I’m not certain when Mr. Clement last sat in on a DARE class, which I recently have done. Let me assure you, the reader, nothing is taught but clear and factual information about drugs and alcohol.
The DARE curriculum has also been revamped over the years to meet children’s needs. Not once did my two children, who received DARE, ever come home scared straight. They really liked their DARE officer and felt cared about by the police in their community, as Mrs. Kelly pointed out. The idea of not talking to our children about drugs because it could do more harm than good is not sound reasoning. Smoking campaigns have proved that open dialogue, educating and making healthy choices have radically reduced the number of children/people who smoke.
I too believe that the excellent young people of today have the capacity to make good choices and we as a community have a responsibility to help them. The community of Castlegar is doing so and I for one, am very proud of this.
-Cpl. Martin G. Kooiman
RCMP Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Service
West Kootenay BC