After a 15 year hiatus, police officer-led D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) will be returning to fifth grade classrooms around Culpeper County this school year.
“We’re trying to (equip) these kids with not only it being safe and secure in their school but also give them tips and tricks to deal with life,” said Culpeper Sheriff Deputy and D.A.R.E. State Coordinator Rob Hefner.
School resources officers trained to teach D.A.R.E. will teach all of the county’s fifth graders a multi lesson program about smart choices, the dangers of drugs and alcohol and life skills.
Teaching D.A.R.E., Hefner said, will be another facet of being an SRO.
“(They’re in the school for) safety and security but also to build relationships with the kids and teach them life skills,” he said. “It takes us out of that enforcement role for a little bit and into teaching and relationships between the kids and the officers.”
“Since now we have one (SRO) at every campus, it's the best time to bring it back.”
Beyond the one lesson about tobacco and alcohol, Hefner said, lessons will include information about bullying, peer pressure and other life skills needed to thrive through their teen years and adulthood.
The program, in addition to providing education, he continued, will reinforce positive relationships between law enforcement and students.
D.A.R.E., founded in 1983, will provide education to millions of children from kindergarten through 12th grade this year, who will gain the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs and violence.
There are over 20 D.A.R.E. communities across the Commonwealth.
In late June, deputies and police officers from various agencies in Virginia and North Carolina graduated at Eastern View High School after the successful completion of a two-week long D.A.R.E. officer training program. The training produced 21 new instructors including local SRO Josephine Breckley.
Hefner attended D.A.R.E. school in 2003, and by 2015, he was promoted to oversee the training and implementation of D.A.R.E. programs across the Commonwealth.
The training, he said, involves more than just the course materials but also teaches officers how to be relatable to children and how to deliver the program’s message.
“When it comes to relationships between the officers and the kids,” Hefner said, “it's that relationship you have, the bond, the trust, that shows a different side of police.”
“Any kind of skills, any kind of tools to kind of help them deal with life, I think we should try everything we can to do everything we can to help these kids to lead a successful life.”