SHIRLEY -- The D.A.R.E. program -- Drug Abuse Resistance Education -- offers age-appropriate lesson plans for students in every grade level, PreK-12.
Developed in partnership with Penn State University, the new middle school format launched in 2008, followed by the elementary school version in 2013. Classes are taught by DARE-certified police officers like Lt. Alfreda Cromwell and Officer William McGuinnes of the Shirley Police Department, whose training included rigorous courses and 80 hours of instruction.
Taught in every state, U.S. territories and 50 other countries around the world, the program's "Keepin' it REAL" curriculum is an upbeat, updated, remake of the 30-year old original.
"Just Say No" is out. Learning to make good choices is in.
During a session in Kelly Spagnuolo's 5th grade classroom at Lura A. White Elementary School, Officer Bill, as the kids call McGuinnes, launched the lesson with a shout-out challenge.
"What day is it?"
It's part of the game plan for the 11-week course, he explained, and instructors go by the book.
The lesson focused on two "control words," Responsibility and Consequences, part of a vocabulary every D.A.R.E. student needs to know.
D.A.R.E. teaches students how to make informed, intelligent choices about a range of issues, from bullying to peer pressure to drugs. It starts with a three-word formula. Assess, Respond, Evaluate.
Identify the problem.
Short videos with real actors and cartoon counterparts showed these concepts in action,with workbook exercises designed to develop strategic skills.
Sample Scenario: Your brother plans to go to a friend's house when no adult is home. Your parents wouldn't allow that. What do you do?
Do you cover for him, as he asks, or spill the story? If you tell, what consequences do you foresee? He'll get mad at you. If you don't? An array of "what if's" pop up.
Two 10-year old boys, home alone. What could go wrong?
"There could be a fire," one student says.
Another muses about lying to his parents. Why should he? "I'd tell," he concluded.
The D.A.R.E. America mission -- spelled out in its website -- strives for a world in which "students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse and dangerous behaviors."
Instructors like McGuinnes and Cromwell take it one step at a time, occasionally with ice cream.
"Sometimes, we come in with special treats," McGuinnes said.