Student Well-Being Letter to the Editor

Don’t Dismiss D.A.R.E.

November 12, 2019 2 min read

To the Editor:

Your October 10th blog post “Drug Education Curriculum Moves Beyond ‘Just Say No’ to Teach Harm Reduction” promotes Safety First as a preferred prevention education model as compared with D.A.R.E. While not presented as an editorial endorsement of the Safety First approach, the article inaccurately compares and contrasts this “new approach” with an outdated version of D.A.R.E. curricula. A Safety First program manager is quoted saying that, “an abstinence-only approach is not working.” D.A.R.E. is not an abstinence-based curricula.

We wish the author and the editors of Education Week had spent even a few minutes to update themselves on today’s D.A.R.E. curricula which are both science- and evidence-based.

Between 2009 and 2019, all new D.A.R.E. curricula have been rolled out. The D.A.R.E. middle school and high school curricula have each been tested through rigorous longitudinal scientific evaluation and proven to be effective.

The rigorous, scientific evaluations of the middle school “keepin’ it REAL” curriculum—which is rooted in social-emotional learning—show students who completed the course experienced a 32 percent to 44 percent reduction in marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol use; 29 percent to 34 percent decrease in intent to accept substances; and a reduction and cessation in substance use among those already using. Can Safety First report similar results? With the exception of a pilot test its website references, I can find no published studies indicating that it has undergone any independent evaluation that demonstrates measureable positive outcomes.

In 2018, D.A.R.E. launched the most comprehensive K-12 Opioid and Prescription Drug Abuse lessons in the country, which more than 300,000 students received during the last school year. Just this past June, D.A.R.E. introduced two new enhancement lessons—Vaping Prevention and Teen Mental Health/Suicide Prevention—in response to crises facing families and communities throughout the country.

What’s concerning is that Education Week is presenting a program created by Drug Policy Alliance as a viable option. This organization is funded in part by George Soros’s foundation, with the principal goal of ending the American “War on Drugs” and promoting the legalization of marijuana. Safety First simply accepts that high-risk behavior will take place and that students should therefore be provided information on how to reduce harm rather than learn skills to make good decisions for safe and healthy living. Prevention education should be just that—prevention—and not a discussion that starts from an assumption that K-12 students will use drugs.

Richard Mahan

Chief Operating Officer


Culver City, Calif.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 13, 2019 edition of Education Week as Don’t Dismiss D.A.R.E.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion Where Does Social-Emotional Learning Go Next?
Teachers, students, and parents all want more social-emotional and service learning in schools. The pandemic has only heightened that need.
John M. Bridgeland & Francie Richards
4 min read
Friendly group of people stand and support each other.
IULIIA/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being Opinion The One Thing Teachers Do That Hurts Student Motivation
When adults take over on a challenging task, kids are more likely to quit sooner on the next one. Here’s what to do instead.
Julia Leonard
1 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Whitepaper
The Complete Guide to SEL
This guide illustrates why SEL is more important now and what you should look for when implementing a social-emotional curriculum.
Content provided by Navigate360
Student Well-Being How Educators Are Approaching Summer Learning This Year
After a difficult year, schools adjust what's best for students as they customize summer learning, enrichment, and play opportunities.
9 min read
Image of kids with backpacks running outdoors.