Local governments and the Dallas School District are still footing the bill for the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in the Dallas elementary and middle schools, though costs have increased in difficult economic times.
This year, the cost of maintaining the D.A.R.E. program at Dallas increased by nearly 25 percent, a cost shared by the district and the municipalities located within the district, which include Dallas Borough and Dallas, Franklin and Kingston townships.
Officer Frank Ziegler of the Kingston Township Police Department has instructed the program in fifth and eighth-grades at Dallas Elementary, Wycallis Elementary and Dallas Middle School on a voluntary since 1995. He also taught the class at the former Gate of Heaven School.
"I believe you have to educate as much as possible because just arresting people doesn't work anymore," said Ziegler.
The D.A.R.E. program is a 10-week course in which students learn about the effects of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs and how they can make better decisions in life. D.A.RE., said Ziegler, also stands for Define, Assess, Respond and Evaluate – a decision-making model.
"I think that's what the meat and potatoes of the program is – how to make good decisions," he said. "They can use this for anything, and when they get used to using it for the small things, when it comes to the big things, they'll be well-experienced."
At a recent D.A.R.E. class at Dallas Elementary, Ziegler spoke to fifth graders-about alcohol advertising and how it's targeted at young people.
He also touched on the use of inhalants as a drug.
"Do people really spray paint in a bag and smell it?" asked one student.
"No, I made it all up," Ziegler joked. "Yes, people do some crazy things – that's why I'm here."
Angela Lizonitz, Dallas Elementary health teacher, thinks early intervention is the key to preventing drug and alcohol abuse.
"I think this is the best age to reach them because if you get to them when they're older, they've already been exposed to it," she said.
Ziegler, who holds a degree in elementary education, can't remember ever having a class like D.A.R.E. when he was younger. He said awareness of drugs and alcohol has increased in younger children through the years.
"This is the time when they're on the border of being a kid and a teenager," he said. "When I come into a class, some kids are already aware, and some kids have no clue."
Kingston Township Supervisor James Reino Jr. said his two daughters went through the D.A.R.E. program at Dallas, so he knows firsthand how it affects young children.
"They enjoyed it very much, and it taught them respect for law enforcement and gave them basic knowledge about how to stay away from situations with drugs and pressure from peers," he said.
Reino said despite the increased costs during a recession, the supervisors feel any program dedicated to aiding youth in the township is a justified expense.
"We feel that anything we can do to support the children of our area, to educate them on the do's and don'ts of society, is a good, worthwhile project," he said.
Ziegler said it's important that the program is taught at schools to every child in a certain grade.
"It's not taught at a Cub Scout meeting where kids can decide not to go," he said.
Members of the Back Mountain Community Partnership have even discussed starting the program in the Lake-Lehman School District because of its benefits.
Ziegler believes drug resistance education is more important now than ever, and he will continue to teach the class as long as the police department and district allow him.
"We have to do something more than just ride around in our cars and arrest people," he said. "As long as it's still relevant, and it's still supported, I will continue to do it."