BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -
Drug abuse resistance education, better known as the "D.A.R.E." program, is making a big comeback in Bradley County, Tennessee schools.
Friday's kickoff event was held at Cleveland's Park View Elementary where it's being welcomed with open arms, amid doubts of effectiveness.
There was plenty of pomp and circumstance as the Bradley County Sheriff's Department unveiled two new D.A.R.E. cars, unwillingly donated by local drug dealers, to help make the big announcement.
"D.A.R.E. is back in Bradley County Schools," exclaimed Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel to thunderous applause in the Park View auditorium. McDaniel says re-instituting D.A.R.E. is a campaign promise kept by newly elected Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson.
"The last few years we've seen an increase of crime when it comes to drugs and alcohol in Bradley County when it comes to teenagers," says Sheriff Watson. "But we want to do something about it."
"It's tried and true and they revamped it some this year," says Park View Elementary Principal Deb Bailey. "So it's a little more modernized."
D.A.R.E.'s return to Bradley County Schools comes with criticism, some of that coming from the federal government, whether it be the U.S. Surgeon General or the Congressional GAO (General Accounting Office) which has concluded that D.A.R.E. is ineffectual or even at some times, counterproductive.
"I think it's a good thing because I'm against drugs all the way," says Park View parent Jackie Lay, who has heard the criticism of D.A.R.E. as has
"Those reports usually come from up north like from New York University or some place like that, which of course is no comparison to Tennessee," says Watson.
"We believe it does build a good relationship between the children and the officer," says McDaniel, who dismissed D.A.R.E. critics.
"It's not just talking about drugs anymore, it's talking about alcohol and living a good life, it's talking about bullying now and a lot of different topics," says Sheriff Watson, who says D.A.R.E. helped him during his scholastic days.
"If D.A.R.E. keeps one child off drugs in my school, then it's well worth it," concluded Principal Bailey.
Park View may be the first Bradley County D.A.R.E. school, but it's not the last.
Tennessee's Department of Safety will be training additional Bradley County School Resource Officers later this summer. Sheriff Watson again stressing it's all free to the taxpayer and funded by drug forfeiture funds, and donations from local leaders.