Why is the DARE program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) still used in about 75 percent of U.S. school districts despite research showing that it is ineffective in reducing drug use? That issue is explored by Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox of the New York City-based Center for Court Innovation in a report funded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance. The authors conclude that the story isn’t so simple as the frequent assertion that DARE’s sponsors were simply able to amass political support that overcame researchers’ objections.
The DARE story “is a lesson in the importance of modest expectations,” say Berman and Fox. DARE may have been saved in many areas “by the realism of many local officials who understood that a complex problem like youth substance abuse doesn’t lend itself to solving through a series of lectures by police officers.” Instead, some school districts retained the program for other reasons, such as to improve relations with police agencies. DARE also improved its curriculum in response to some of the critical studies. Berman and Fox urge “an honest and civil dialogue between researchers and an evaluated program.” They hope that the DARE study can help improve relations between criminal justice scholars and practitioners.