After the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Program was discontinued at Selbyville schools four years ago, parents and teachers grew concerned about the resulting impact on students. Now, thanks to the persistent efforts of Selbyville police Lt. Robert Reed, the program is back and in full swing within secondary schools in the town. And now it has a set of wheels, too.
DARE is an international program implemented in schools to help prevent the use of illegal drugs, membership in gangs and violent behavior among youths in the community. With the program reinstated, Reed has been visiting students at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts (SDSA) and Philip Showell Elementary – nearly 300 students altogether – to inform them about how to live a healthy and safe life.
“Last year,” explained Reed, “I began working as the school resource officer in all the area schools.” In addition to SDSA and Showell, Reed’s responsibilities encompassed Selbyville Middle School, too. The program became full-time again this year, after Reed acquired certification through a two-week course in Virginia Beach, Va.
In the program, first-, second- and third-graders learn about safety and resisting violence, while fifth- and sixth-graders are educated on the facts and effects of drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.
“We teach them to say, ‘no,’ and teach them the right thing to do,” said Reed. “It’s nice to get the program back.”
Reed gets to work with individual classes, rather than trying to inform students at a large assembly.
“The program includes all of the students,” Reed said. “I go into each classroom and work one-on-one with the students. The average class size is 20 to 30 kids, so the students really get a great education. There’s even homework. It’s just like a regular subject.”
The program’s reception from parents and teachers alike has been a positive one.
“I saw a need for it,” said Reed, who has been with the Selbyville Police Department for 12 years, “and I had talked to teachers at the schools, and they missed it. They’re glad to have it back. I have teachers coming up to me in the hallways, asking when I’m going to come to their class.”
Though the program has not been reintroduced at Selbyville Middle School, Reed said he expects it to get back into that school in the near future.
“We’re trying to bring an aspect of DARE into the health classes of the middle school,” said Reed. “We’d like to work with seventh- and eighth-graders. That way, when they get into high school, they will be more prepared.”
The Indian River School District provides the Selbyville Police Department with funds to support Reed as a school resource officer (SRO), and some of that money was applied toward the new DARE vehicle and decals that help distinguish it as it makes its way around town.
“A lot of parents still don’t know the program’s going on,” said Reed, “but we’re trying to fix that. I get parents seeing the car and coming into the schools, excited about the program. I’ve heard nothing but positive comments from the parents.”
The new vehicle will be making an appearance in the 49th Annual Selbyville Christmas Parade this Friday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. in downtown Selbyville.
In the future, Reed hopes the program will expand throughout Sussex County, but, along with funding, it requires action to be taken by the schools and local law enforcement.
“I’d love to see the program expand,” he said. “It would work well in other schools.”
For more information about the DARE program in Selbyville area schools, call the town hall at (302) 436-8314 or the Selbyville Police Department at (302) 436-5085.