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Muskego school officials discuss effectiveness of anti-drug programs, including D.A.R.E.

May 22, 2014

Muskego — During the Muskego-Norway School Board debate of whether to approve random drug testing, discussions moved last week onto whether there is a better way than the D.A.R.E. program to keep children away from drugs and onto looking at the bigger drug abuse picture.

"I've yet to find evidence that D.A.R.E. really works," said School Board President Rick Petfalski. "I've heard that from numerous sources."

Some school districts have even dropped the program, he said.

D.A.R.E., standing for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is an international program in which police officers teach fifth- graders about the hazards of drug and alcohol use.

Ted Gunnerman, director of student services and assessments, echoed those doubts saying D.A.R.E. has not come up high as an effective program.

Petfalski said, "I'd like to look at the drug awareness curriculum. Is that our best resource right now or should we start looking for another program?"

"That could be re-examined," Gunnerman said.

Some schools use Project Alert and others a life skills training program, instead, he said. The drug abuse task force of school, city and community leaders already plans to look into programs for seventh- and eighth-graders, said Superintendent Kelly Thompson.

But D.A.R.E. has been helpful if just because of the relationship the D.A.R.E. officer builds with students, Gennerman said.

Supplementing D.A.R.E. with anti-drug programs in succeeding grades also was suggested as an alternative to dropping it.

But more needs to be done outside of school, said board member Bob Bohmann said.

Nothing less than a cultural shift is needed with parents, teachers and the community as a whole consistently giving the message that drug use is not acceptable, he said. And the message in school must be consistent from middle school through high school, he said.

"So it's part of a greater cultural shift," Bohmann said. "So kids know what's acceptable."

To help create that cultural shift, board member Chris Buckmaster suggested testing half the students participating in co-curriculars, if random drug testing is ultimately approved.

Petfalski leaned toward that, suggesting that the schools could always ease up as years go by.

Buckmaster also suggested that a body or an individual be designated to keep track of all anti-drug efforts so that no source of help is overlooked in the battle against drugs.

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