At least everyone agrees on one thing: drug prevention needs to be taught to kids in the fifth grade.
And that's about where the agreement stopped Tuesday at the Salt Lake City Board of Education meeting.
Despite disagreement — over whether the DARE drug resistance program works, what substitute program to use if DARE is scrapped, and whether Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson was making decisions and leaving board members in the dark — the mayor and the superintendent told the board and community members they will be inclusive in making further decisions about drug and life-skills education programs in the schools.
Anderson countered attacks that his disregard for DARE is newly found by saying he has been reading studies on DARE success rates for the last three years. He also said he has meet with Superintendent Darline Robles eight times since January to discuss DARE, including one time when the two met with doctors who developed the highly-praised ATLAS program in Portland, Ore.
Robles said the press misreported that the school board was not informed of her DARE meetings with Anderson. That is untrue, she says. "That has always been shared."
Not all school board members, however, felt they were part of the decision-making process in doing away with DARE.
"I felt like the train . . . was going down the track and I couldn't get on," said board president Kathy Black.
"I feel like the process that was done by the mayor was unfair," said board member Cliff Higbee.
Anderson said there would be no more "surprises" with the DARE decision.
"I just want to make it very, very clear," Anderson said. "My administration wants to work and collaborate with the school board."
DARE is just one of many life-skills programs used in Salt Lake schools, along with programs like Prevention Dimensions and health curricula.
Higbee said the whole K-12 curriculum may be flawed. "Maybe DARE is not the only thing that is not working," Higbee said, adding there might be a need for more thorough research.
Robles said that cannot be determined until parents wholeheartedly help researchers obtain data from students, by signing permission slips that allow questioning of their children.
"I would like us to really focus on getting this information for our student body," she said.
One common belief of the several parents and case workers at the meeting was that police officers are ineffective in the classroom. Anderson said officers are most needed on the street.
"This is not about our budget, it's about putting together a program for our children that's going to be most effective," Anderson said.
If DARE is killed in Salt Lake City this fall, educators will have to scramble to throw together another program in its place. One ideas suggested was to implement Prevention Dimensions for the first semester. By the end of the first semester, educators should have a new program developed. EveryoneAll wants to use the 17 hours allotted fifth-graders to teach some form of drug resistance or life skills.
Board members may need a little more convincing that DARE is as ineffective as Anderson says. The mayor claims the program is marketed heavily, despite having no results or negative results, in which the rate of students trying drugs increases.
"I have a real hard time saying DARE was ineffective," Black said.
However, only one person spoke in favor of DARE. Mike Milne called taking an officer out of a classroom "a mistake."
Milne said DARE "teaches the consequences of risky behavior."