By John J. Bryant
After months of researching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson eliminated it.
Research of the program’s effectiveness included areas such as preventing drug use among Utah’s teens, said mayor’s office spokesman Ted Nguyen.
“Numerous scientific studies have shown that the program is ineffective in curbing drug abuse among youth,” Nguyen said.
“The Center for Disease Control said cocaine, marijuana and cigarette use among teens have been rising over the years.”
Nguyen said since 1991 marijuana and cocaine use among Utah teens has risen from 7 to 11 percent.
Nguyen said the National Institute on Drug Abuse studies reported in 1998 10.4 million youth were drinking alcohol and 13.6 million were using illegal drugs.
He said these statistics influenced the mayor’s decision and that “the real tragedy is that the city didn’t implement a program that really works.”
The D.A.R.E. program was developed in Los Angeles in 1983 under former Police Chief Daryl Gates and has been a part of Salt Lake City for 14 years, he said.
“D.A.R.E. was a partnership with the Salt Lake City School District,” Nguyen said. “The school just dropped the ball.”
The school provided the children, but the police department did the rest, he said.
Salt Lake City Police Media Officer, Lt. Cory Lyman agreed.
“We carried the load, we did the budget, we taught the lessons,” Lyman said.
Lyman said this was not an uninformed decision and that the police department had been working for months with the mayor’s office.
The police department will support any new program to prevent drug use among teens, he said.
“In the five and a half years that I’ve been in office no one has asked me to contribute,” Salt Lake School Superintendent , Dr. Darline Robles said.
“Most of our teachers felt positive about the program,” she said.
“Only the timing of the announcement was a surprise,” said Dr. Robles.
She said nationwide evaluations of the program have shown it to be ineffective, but no evaluations have been done in the Salt Lake School District.
On the subject of new programs, Mayor Anderson has shared several ideas with school districts that have proven effective elsewhere, Nguyen said.
“It is a mandated federal law that schools provide a drug awareness and prevention program and that now the schools need to step up to the plate and deliver,” Nguyen said.
The problem that most people have is that the D.A.R.E. program has been ingrained upon us, Nguyen said.
There are three drug prevention programs with proven track records that the mayor has suggested to Salt Lake schools. Lately the Salt Lake City School District has been using a program called Prevention and Dimension.
Nguyen said it is up to the schools to choose a program and implement it.
One of the programs suggested is Project Students Taught Awareness and Resistance.
S.T.A.R. has proven to be one of the most effective programs in the country, Nguyen said.
By ninth or tenth grade, S.T.A.R. graduates use half the amount of cocaine of older students, Nguyen said.
“The use of tobacco, marijuana and alcohol among S.T.A.R. graduates is 20-40 percent lower than that of students who didn’t participate in the program,” Nguyen said.