Fort Frances OPP will be offering the D.A.R.E. program at the Grade 3 level as a pilot project beginning next month to see how young students respond to it.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program currently is offered at the Grade 6 and Grade 10 levels.
“We teach them how to say no to drugs,” said Fort Frances OPP community services officer Cst. Caroline Spencer.
They do this through various methods, she said, like body language, avoiding situations where there might be drugs, and not getting involved in gangs.
While the D.A.R.E. program has been offered to students in Fort Frances since 1996, it only was offered at the Grade 3 level for a short while.
“Fort Frances OPP did, at one point, teach Grade 3 D.A.R.E.,” Cst. Spencer noted, adding they are re-introducing it now at the request of a teacher.
The program originated in Los Angeles, where police officers decided to do something about youth getting involved in gangs.
“It’s a very regimented program,” said Cst. Spencer. “It has to be delivered by police officers. It’s more powerful coming from them.
“In the Grade 3 program, a lot of it is laws and why we have them,” she added.
D.A.R.E. is now used across the globe to teach children the dangers of drugs.
During the weekly one-hour sessions over five weeks, students learn about the difference between drugs that help and drugs that harm, about handling conflicts without violence, and about avoiding group and gang violence.
In higher grades, the officers expand upon these ideas.
“Ultimately, it’s their choice. We’re trying to educate them to make the right choice,” Cst. Spencer explained.
There currently are 10 OPP officers in Rainy River District who are trained to deliver the D.A.R.E. program. The local detachment does fundraising to pay for the training and the materials.
“The OPP doesn’t actually provide money for the program. The money comes from the community,” Cst. Spencer said.
Local service clubs and churches, among others, provide the bulk of the funding for the program. “It’s fantastic the way the community comes together,” she enthused.
When asked how she judges the success of the program, Cst. Spencer said it has a lot to do with communication.
“If I’ve taught somebody in Grade 6, and if they’re still saying “hello” to me when they’re in high school, then we’ve won,” she remarked.
In other news, the OPP also is planning to offer “Drive Wise”—a sort of driving “refresher” program for local seniors.
“We take the program and personalize it to our area,” Cst. Spencer said, adding the local detachment is hoping to offer the program later this spring.