Chicago Tribune Flip-Flops On DARE Criticism

Date: Tue, 04 Feb 2003
Subject: Chicago Tribune Flip-Flops On DARE Criticism

Chicago Tribune Flip-Flops On DARE Criticism


DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 261 Feb. 4, 2002

Over three years ago, DARE critics were happy to discover at least one
major newspaper understood that DARE was a massive boondoggle. At the
time, the Chicago Tribune printed an editorial entitled “It’s time to
show DARE the door.” See

The editorial stated, “What a waste! There’s got to be a better way to
educate young people about the hazards of substance abuse, but as long
as a high-profile pseudo-solution is available, there’s little
incentive to find out what might really work.”

Since that time, more studies have confirmed what Tribune editors
seemed to understand: DARE doesn’t deter drug use. Another recent
Tribune story about had an even harsher assessment from a police chief
who said, “I can’t tell you how many kids told me DARE introduced them
to drugs.” See see

Strangely, as the evidence mounts, Tribune editorialists suddenly
suggest that DARE just needs to try harder. In an editorial published
last week (see below), the Tribune accepted the spin of a DARE
spokesman who said the mountain of studies condemning DARE may be
wrong. The editorial went on to say that some local DARE programs work
(though they didn’t mention any specifically) therefore national DARE
just needs to study those local programs. None of it makes sense based
on the Tribune’s own reporting. Please write a letter to the Tribune
to ask just where these “outstanding” local DARE programs exist, and
why the newspaper has flip-flopped on its previous sensible position.

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Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)


US IL: Editorial: DARE America At 20

Pubdate: Sat, 01 Feb 2003
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2003 Chicago Tribune Company


DARE America, the nation’s largest in-school drug awareness program,
celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with its image and
reputation in deep jeopardy.

Born out of a partnership between the Los Angeles Police Department
and the L.A. schools, Drug Abuse Resistance Education has suffered
tough times recently. State and local governments facing tight budgets
have cut DARE programs. Studies by the U.S. surgeon general, the
General Accounting Office and others have questioned DARE’s

Illinois DARE officials predict that half of the state’s schools that
now offer the program will drop it by the end of this year. Skokie,
Chicago Ridge and Peoria police have dropped it and others are
considering similar moves. Chicago Ridge Police Chief Tim Balderman
told a Tribune reporter that, after 13 years of DARE, his department
actually saw an increase in drug arrests, “all DARE graduates.”

In DARE’s defense, national spokesman Ralph Lochridge responds that
the critical studies were either too limited or, in some cases, were
biased against DARE’s methods. The organization points to more
favorable assessments, such as a 2001 survey of Illinois DARE by an
Ohio State University professor. That study found that 86 percent of
school principals thought DARE made students less likely to abuse
alcohol and drugs.

A comprehensive University of Akron study is following more than
20,000 students in various cities for five years to compare students
who participate in DARE and those who don’t. Drawing on the first two
years of research, the study’s director, Dr. Zili Sloboda, observes
that students who have come through DARE are measurably better
informed that drugs are not nearly as popular or commonly used as
their non-DARE peers think they are.

It should surprise no one that the initial research also shows the
short-term benefits of teaching drug awareness and avoidance to
children in lower school grades is lost later if it is not reinforced
by effective follow-up programs. Particularly critical are the early
teen years. If parents and local school districts invest all of their
efforts in DARE’s program for 5th graders, then let the efforts lapse
by the time the youngsters get to high school, they should not be
surprised when the anti-drug message does not stick.

DARE survives largely because so many dedicated police officers and
others who work with students believe in it. Local autonomy is good
when it helps DARE to adjust to local circumstances. Unfortunately, an
organization as big and varied as DARE can find that its effectiveness
is burdened by inconsistent use of the program.

As DARE America enters its third decade, it faces the challenge of
taking what it has learned in its most outstanding local programs and
applying those lessons nationally. Then it can narrow the gap between
local chapters that appear to be producing results and those that are



(Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please
modify it so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the
same letter and so that the original author receives credit for
his/her work.)

To the Editors:

I was baffled by the Tribune’s editorial about DARE (“DARE America at
20,” Feb. 1)

As the Tribune’s own reporting illustrates, DARE is nothing but a
massive failure. Merely three years ago, the The Tribune editorial
board had the good sense to call for the end of DARE (“It’s time to
show DARE the door,” Aug. 11, 1999).

Since 1999, a number of major studies have diminished DARE’s already
dismal reputation. But, now in 2003, the Tribune says, “As DARE
America enters its third decade, it faces the challenge of taking what
it has learned in its most outstanding local programs and applying
those lessons nationally. ” Which outstanding local programs is the
Tribune referring to? While the Tribune has highlighted some DARE
officers who are no doubt dedicated to their jobs, this does not
translate to the existence of “outstanding” local programs. Officers
may have all the best intentions, but the finest carpenter can’t build
a sturdy house on a crumbling foundation.

This is a central problem with DARE. Local communities are reluctant
to criticize their own DARE officers, especially when they are
passionate about a difficult job. But this is where the false logic
begins. Because our DARE officer is dedicated, DARE is good for kids
and should not be cut. Or because DARE offers allows positive
interaction between police and youth, it has value, and since we need
to have drug education, it might as well be DARE. Or the worst, DARE
offers positive interaction, and is therefore effective drug education.

None of these assertions are supported by facts or logic. But the mere
existence of DARE seems to make some people feel good, so good that
they are willing to believe that DARE’s many fatal flaws can somehow
be corrected, even if such a process never leads to effective drug

S. Young

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With a daily circulation average of 679,327 The Chicago Tribune ranks
7th nationally among all daily newspapers. The Tribune accepts letters
to the editor from everywhere, seeing itself as a national newspaper.

While we recommend aiming letters for 200 words or less, the average
length of pro reform letters printed by the paper, based on an
analysis of the database at is 231 words.
Although rare, the paper has printed letters in the 300 word range.


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Prepared by: Stephen Young, DrugSense Focus Alert Specialist