DARE is reaching kids on drug useAs a Baltimore County...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

September 25, 1999

DARE is reaching kids on drug use

As a Baltimore County police officer who teaches the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program to sixth-grade students, I would like to respond to the letter from Robin A. Tomechko of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Maryland ("Drug education, taught by a friend," Sept. 4).

Ms. Tomechko states that "parents and teachers have recently been chagrined to learn that the [DARE] program doesn't seem to be working."

She refers to a study conducted at the University of Kentucky and recently written up in a journal of the American Psychiatric Association, which found that "the DARE program has no long-term effect on substance abuse."

Ms. Tomechko goes on to refer to another "equally rigorous study" conducted in 1993 with children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program. This study was conducted by Public/Private Ventures (PPV).

While Ms. Tomechko refers to both studies, she doesn't give much information about how they were conducted and gives only the findings of the survey conducted by PPV.

The Kentucky study tracked 1,000 sixth-graders, revisiting them 10 years after they participated in the DARE program.

It found that 23 percent smoked half a pack of cigarettes a day in the month before the follow-up (77 percent did not), 30 percent had used alcohol at least once a week in the past year (70 percent did not), 46 percent had used marijuana at least once in the past year and 24 percent used other drugs such as cocaine.

In my opinion, such results 10 years later reflect a long-term effect from the DARE program.

Ms. Tomechko says, "The two studies hold a lesson about the difference between aiming a program at a problem and aiming it at a child" and that "police officers telling kids about drugs doesn't seem to work, but regular folks, simply sharing their friendship, works better than most people realize."

But the DARE program is aimed at both the child and the problem. In Baltimore County it is taught to approximately 9,000 students each year. We educate children about a problem (substance abuse and violence) that has a negative impact on them.

In addition to providing an anti-drug, anti-violence message to our youth, DARE officers serve as role models and mentors.

Ms. Tomechko stereotypes police officers as being separate and apart from "regular folk." As a police officer for the last 25 years, I've never considered myself anything but "regular folk."

In promoting the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program, Ms. Tomechko found it necessary to be critical of the DARE program.

She should promote the Big Brothers Big Sisters program on its own merits, rather than resorting to putting out someone else's light to let her own shine through.

In recent years, DARE has had its critics. Nevertheless, to the best of my knowledge, DARE has not criticized other child-oriented organizations.

Maybe that's because DARE is really focused on its mission to our youth, not on what other programs are doing.

Gary Gephardt, Baltimore

The writer is a member of the Baltimore County police DARE Unit.

Bill Bradley leads the field for president

American voters have a special and historic opportunity to elect a candidate for president who is exceptionally well-qualified for the office both by virtue of his political experience and service and his exemplary character.

This candidate is Bill Bradley, who served with distinction as U.S. senator from New Jersey for three consecutive terms.

While most people think first of Mr. Bradley as the remarkable college and professional basketball player that he was, many do not realize the power of his intellect, the exceptional strength of his character and the breadth and depth of his contribution as a political servant.

Mr. Bradley has repeatedly demonstrated that his words and actions are governed by what he believes, after careful study, is in the best interests of the country -- rather than by what the polls say is popular.

Since he left the Senate in 1996, Bill Bradley has been anything but idle. He has continued to study and travel and think, striving to find ways to make our political process more responsible and less harnessed to special interests.

Bill Bradley's recent book, "Time Present, Time Past," provides full and fair treatment of issues past and present and gives ample evidence of the author's clear thinking and depth of understanding.

When you combine these qualities with his character and deep compassion for people Mr. Bradley emerges as one of the most outstanding presidential candidates in our history.

Redmond Finney, Upperco

Fair and equal media coverage is critical to campaign reform

My compliments on The Sun's editorial "Fresh faces, new ideas" (Sept. 16), which noted the "serious bid" some Republican nominees are making for office in the city's Nov. 2 general election.

That editorial aptly warned that "voters who want meaningful change should not limit their choices to Democrats."

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