By Rachel Bidock
Clinton County Staff Reporter
This year the St. Johns Police Department decided to move away from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., program and onto a new program known as Teaching, Educating, And Mentoring, or T.E.A.M.
“D.A.R.E. taught fifth-graders just about drugs and maybe a little bit about bullying,” Knight said. “This teaches a whole school system, you can go from kindergarten to twelfth-graders and it gives you a variety of topics based on your age level.”
According to Chris Melde, a professor at Michigan State’s School of Criminal Justice, longer-duration programs have a longer-lasting impact on students compared to one-year programs such as D.A.R.E.
“With a program that is fairly short in duration, it’s not a whole environment program or whole environment change,” Melde said. “It’s a short-term, school-based curriculum, and those have a hard time working.”
John Ferden, a fourth- and fifth-grade math teacher at Oakview South Elementary School, said he is not sure why the change was made, and hopes that the T.E.A.M. program goes into greater detail about certain topics.
“The D.A.R.E. program went more into depth with things, and there’s times where I feel more time could be spent on a subject,” Ferden said. “I thought D.A.R.E. was great, I’m not exactly sure why the decision was made to change from D.A.R.E. to T.E.A.M.”
Melde said D.A.R.E. has been proven to be ineffective, and it is time for new programs to be put into place.
“By and large, it does not work and even in some populations it is found to hurt,” Melde said. “There are a number of programs that are out there that when implemented, have shown to improve school climate and have been shown to decrease deviant behaviors.”
Phone messages requesting comment from D.A.R.E. were not returned the week of March 28 and on March 30.
Knight is confident that this new program will provide students across grade levels with the education they need to stay out of trouble.
“This curriculum allows us to adapt to whatever age level we’re teaching,” Knight said. “For different age levels there are different topics, it teaches you how to communicate whether it’s the kindergarteners or the twelfth-graders.”
Maintaining a positive student-police relationship was another reason that Knight chose to implement this program.
“It’s a police officer teaching it instead of a teacher teaching,” Knight said. “So it sort of gives us an opportunity to get in the schools and intermingle with the students and they can see us in a different light,” he said.
According to Knight, T.E.A.M. is in all three elementary schools in St. Johns and occasionally they go into the high schools. He hopes this program will be successful and plans on training more officers to be put into the schools to teach.
“I just hope it continues to grow,” Knight said. “This is my first year of us doing this and I just sent an officer to the training to get another one on board.”
For teachers such as Ferden, the most important aspect is what the students are gaining from the lessons and so far he is pleased.
“The kids are still engaged and asking really good questions,” Ferden said. “It’s a great program for kids to be able to learn how to handle when they are put in tough situations and how to make the best choices as they grow up and go through school.”