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Students at West Elementary are proud to be drug free

PARK HILLS – West Elementary students will D.A.R.E to keep away from drugs and violence after learning about those dangers from a program that has educated young people around the world.

“We’re trying to give the kids some information they can live their lives with,” said St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock. “This is a fifth grade class today and they’re getting to that point where they’re being exposed to drugs and we want to let them know that it’s not all right and to say no.”

D.A.R.E stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. It is an international education program that seeks to prevent use of controlled drugs, membership in gangs and violent behavior by students. The program, has expanded globally since 1983, and is a demand-side drug control strategy of the U.S. War on Drugs.

The St. Francois County curriculum is administered by long time D.A.R.E. instructor and St. Francois County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Carver.

“The D.A.R.E program has so many good life lessons,” said Carver. “No only are we teaching about the dangers and the consequences of using drugs, we are also talking about bullying. The new D.A.R.E. program we started this year has an excellent bullying lesson in it.”

Carver said that the program not only teaches kids about drugs and violence, but also allows law enforcement to build a relationship with them. He said that many of the kids he teaches feel comfortable coming to him when they have a problem. D.A.R.E. also helps kids learn about how to prevent violent behavior.

“Sadly that’s something we have to worry about now. So, we talk about how to control our anger and emotions and how to express your feelings in a positive manner,” Carver said.

Students who enter the program sign a pledge not to use drugs or join gangs and are taught about the dangers of drug use in an interactive in-school curriculum lasting 10 weeks.

“Students take it home. In this area I know there’s a large presence (of drugs) and I think it hits home. As a former police officer that’s one of the reasons I got into education. I got tired of seeing kids messed up on drugs and it just leads to stealing and everything else. I think if we can hit it early on in life they’re going to be better citizens on the road ahead,” said West Elementary Principal Keith Groom.

At the program’s conclusion D.A.R.E. students take part in a special assembly at which the students are honored for their work and each receives a certificate in a ceremony similar to a high school or college graduation. One hundred and forty nine students in grade five graduated the D.A.R.E training at West Elementary. They were all presented with a certificate of completion. 

“It’s something that their going to be exposed to at one point in most of their lives and its important that They’re educated on the effects of drugs and encouraged, so they won’t want to try it, said Dana Miller, fifth grade teacher at West Elementary.

Every assembly, medallions are presented to one student from each classroom that has been determined by their teachers to have written the top essay. The essay describes what the students have learned during the program. Whether they won the contest or not, all of the students were excited and having a good time at their graduation ceremony.

“At first I didn’t know a whole lot about drugs and stuff. And now that I’ve had D.A.R.E come in and talk to our school I think a lot of people do drugs and don’t mean too, but once they start they always end up doing it,” said Alicia Robbins, fifth grader at West Elementary.

Fifth-grade students who took part in comprehensive, interactive school-based prevention programs starting as early as first grade were half as likely as their peers to use alcohol or other drugs, act out violently, or engage in sexual activity, according to a new study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Pat Pratt is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010 ext. 172 or

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