Of the training courses Moffat County Sheriff’s Office deputy Ryan Hess has taken, he said the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program was the hardest.
“Seriously,” Hess said of the two-week course. “We had 10-hour days, and a minimum of six or seven hours of homework every night.”
Hess and officers Tony Gianetti, Mike Edwards and Norm Rimmer of the Craig Police Department are local law enforcement representatives of the DARE program.
On Thursday, Hess and Gianetti met with East Elementary School fifth-graders to begin teaching the DARE curriculum. The curriculum will be taught to fifth-graders throughout the Moffat County School District in one-hour, weekly classes spread over 10 weeks.
DARE was founded in 1984 in Los Angeles. It is a “police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives,” according to the organization’s website.
The program is taught in 75 percent of school districts across the country and in more than 43 countries around the world, according to the website.
Hess and Gianetti said the program serves two purposes.
Substance abuse prevention is the primary goal, but the program also offers students a chance to see law enforcement officers in a role they might be unfamiliar with, Hess and Gianetti said.
“We do a lot of (public relations) with the kids,” Gianetti said. “We come in, sit down and eat lunch. Or, we go out for recess and play football with them, or push them on the swings.”
Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said students seeing law enforcement officers in a different manner is important.
“It’s letting people see us in a different light than just enforcing the law,” Jantz said. “It gives us an opportunity to show that we’re caring individuals, that we care about kids and our community.”
The sheriff said the DARE program has been taught in Moffat County for more than 20 years.
Regarding the program’s main goal, Hess said the curriculum has changed in recent years.
“The new thing is to focus on decision-making,” said Hess, who has taught DARE for four years. “It’s not so much on one drug being worse than the other, or (the details) on this drug, this drug or this drug.
“A lot of the lessons are about how to make a good decision. If you are in a tight spot, and you have to say ‘no,’ what are some ways you can say it and still save some grace, and leave and not have any harm done to you?”
Whether the program works in Moffat County is uncertain. Hess said there is no available data to support or detract from the program’s effectiveness.
Jantz, however, believes the program works in the classroom.
“Is it a viable program? Absolutely,” Jantz said.
“There are quite a few kids who are going to take it to heart and there are those that don’t. But, this is just one piece of the puzzle.
“We do our part, parents do their part, the school does their part, and society — however you look at it — does its part. I think we’re just a small piece of the puzzle, but I do think it’s viable, I think it’s effective.”
Joe Petrone, Moffat County School District superintendent, said he’s delighted DARE is a continuing part of students’ education. He agrees with Jantz’s assessment of the program.
“It certainly is effective, otherwise we wouldn’t be scheduling it,” Petrone said.