Try to imagine a world in which students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors.

That’s the vision of D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), a program designed to educate youth in order to prevent their use of controlled drugs, membership in gangs, and violent behavior.

Sheriffs’ offices across Missouri are strong supporters of the D.A.R.E. program, joining in the organization’s mission to teach students good decision-making skills that will help them lead safe and healthy lives.

If not the longest-running program, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office has one of the longest-running D.A.R.E. programs in the state. In 1991 two deputies were hired by Sheriff John Pierpont specifically to spearhead the program. At the time D.A.R.E. was the nation’s number one drug prevention program. The sheriff’s office obtained a grant paying 100 percent of salaries for two deputies for one year; each year thereafter it would reduce by 25 percent. The idea was that the county and sheriff’s office would, over time, assume financial responsibility for the assigned deputies.

According to Sheriff Jim Arnott, the program has been such a benefit to the community that it continues today. “The program here at Greene County is now self-sufficient. All books, programs, T-Shirts, etc. are paid out of fundraising efforts,” he said, adding that over the years, as the three larger towns were able to assume the role and provide their own D.A.R.E. program, the sheriff’s office cut back to one full time and one part time D.A.R.E. officer to support the remaining four school districts who couldn’t financially afford to provide their own program. “We believe the program has touched thousands of children over the years, also providing a positive role model and the ability to see a uniformed law enforcement person in a positive and non-scary way.”

Other sheriffs’ offices across the state have partnered with organizations to present the same message, just in a different way. The Ripley County Sheriff’s Office is one. They partnered with the Missouri Department of Transportation to provide a safety program that incorporates the anti-drug message into teaching on other safety measures.

Miller County Deputy Randy Wheeler, who also serves as Region 5 representative for the Missouri D.A.R.E. Officers Association, summed up his view of officer-led programs.

“D.A.R.E. and other youth safety programs help us build an even more positive relationship with our local school officials and students. And if we reach just one child with the program message, then the program is a success,” he said.

History of D.A.R.E.

The D.A.R.E. program was developed in 1983 through a partnership between the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which, according to the D.A.R.E. website, was formed to curtail the use of illegal drugs. Because few drug prevention programs were available for schools at that time, Dr. Ruth Rich, Health Education Curriculum administrator for the LAUSD, developed the original 17-lesson elementary school D.A.R.E. curriculum. Based upon prevailing prevention science at the time, the curriculum emphasized teaching specific information about specific drugs and their negative effects. LAPD officers were trained to teach the new program, not only to students but to other law enforcement officers, “which resulted in a rapid and widespread adoption of D.A.R.E. throughout the country and around the world over the next 10 years.”

A middle-school curriculum was added in 1984, and in 1989, D.A.R.E. introduced a high school curriculum. Over the next decade, the program underwent several changes. Although some of the new material introduced was deemed ineffective, a study found that well-trained law enforcement officers can effectively deliver a drug prevention curriculum in a school setting and that students perceive law enforcement officers as “credible deliverers of substance abuse prevention curricula.”

Research continued and in 2007, the more interactive “keepin’ it REAL” curriculum was adopted. Students work in small groups, with guidance from the D.A.R.E. officer, to develop their own ways of positively addressing high-risk situations in their lives. The new program, which focuses on prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse, internet safety, bullying, and role models, was introduced in middle schools in 2008 and elementary schools in 2013. A high school program was developed in 2016.

In 2017, D.A.R.E. began development of a supplemental lesson on opiate drug abuse prevention. It was launched in 2018.

Several sheriffs across the state shared photos of their D.A.R.E. officers and the students who have pledged, or will be pledging in coming weeks, to make good choices in life.

Adair County

Deputy Bradley Broadwell with the Adair County Sheriff’s Office teaches the D.A.R.E. program at the Novinger School, which everyone involved agrees, “has been wonderful to work with.” In fact, the school is so supportive of the program that the kitchen staff recently baked and decorated a cake for the graduates of this year’s class. According to Sheriff Robert Hardwick, Deputy Broadwell, who has three children of his own, “is very good at connecting with the students and is definitely someone they can respect and trust.”

Andrew County

Deputy Kenneth Thompson is the D.A.R.E. officer for the Andrew County Sheriff’s Office. He teaches at five schools in three districts – North Andrew R-6, Avenue City R-9 and Savannah R-3’s John Glenn, Helena and Amazonia elementary schools.

Atchison County

Chief Deputy Richard L. Sons, who has been with Atchison County Sheriff’s Office since 1993, has been the D.A.R.E. officer since 2000. He teaches in three school districts – Fairfax R-3, Tarkio R-1 and Rock Port R-2 – and also teaches at the Atchison County Head Start. At Fairfax he teaches the K-2-4 program, the sixth-grade core class and high school D.A.R.E. At Tarkio and Rock Port he teaches K-2-4 and the sixth-grade core class. More than 300 students graduated from the program on April 2. “DARE Graduation does not mark the end of something but the beginning. The students have made a commitment and it is our job as law enforcement, educators, family and a community to help them be successful,” Chief Deputy Sons said.

Camden County

Deputy Jamee Rugen is Camden County’s D.A.R.E. officer, teaching in the sixth-grade classes at both Stoutland and Macks Creek elementary schools. Thirty-six students recently graduated from the Stoutland program and 25 graduated from Macks Creek. The program was reinstated three years by Deputy Rugen after a 16-year absence.

Cass County

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office has two D.A.R.E. officers – Deputy Christine Eddleman, who has been a D.A.R.E. officer with Cass County for 13 years, and Deputy Stacy Gunn, who has been a D.A.R.E. officer for two years. Deputy Eddleman teaches D.A.R.E. at Pleasant Hill, East Lynne, Midway and Archie schools. Deputy Gunn teaches D.A.R.E. at Strasburg, Sherwood, Drexel, and Archie schools.

Franklin County

Deputies teach approximately 26 D.A.R.E. classes each year in 16 different schools in Franklin County. Pictured are Deputy James O’Fallon and Beaufort Elementary, Cpl. James Harden and Gerald Elementary, Deputy O’Fallon and New Haven Elementary and D.A.R.E. Kids for Vets, a program that challenges D.A.R.E. students to see which class can collect the most food and toiletries for less-fortunate and homeless veterans who live in their community. The school collecting the most gets to help deliver them and then spend the day with local veterans, enjoying a pizza party before visiting the St. Clair Armory. More than 100,000 items have been collected over the years.

Greene County

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office started the D.A.R.E. program in the fall of 1991 with two officers teaching in seven different school districts and has continued for the last 28 years. Deputy Dale Wagner, who has been a D.A.R.E. instructor for 16 years, teaches four classes with 91 students at Fair Grove Elementary and one class with 19 students at Walnut Grove Elementary. Deputy Ron Moore, who has been a D.A.R.E. instructor for 19 years, teaches 58 students in two classes at Bois D’Arc Elementary and 99 students in four classes at Strafford Elementary for a total of 267 students.

Harrison County

Harrison County shared a picture from this year’s D.A.R.E. graduation at Bethany.

Jasper County

The Jasper County Sheriff’s Office provides two deputies that teach D.A.R.E. in three schools in Jasper County. Deputy Isaac West and Cpl. Matt Terry teach D.A.R.E. to hundreds of children in Sarcoxie, Avilla and Jasper schools each year. Along with D.A.R.E., the deputies also teach the Eddie Eagle curriculum at these schools, helping to educate children about firearm safety.

Johnson County

Sgt. Dale Malcolm has served as the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office D.A.R.E. officer for 11 years. He teaches at Knob Noster, Holden, Leeton, Chilhowee, Kingsville, Crest Ridge and Johnson County Christian Academy.

McDonald County

The McDonald County Sheriff’s Office provides three D.A.R.E. instructors – Sheriff Michael Hall, who teaches at Rocky Comfort, White Rock and Southwest City elementary schools; Deputy Cindy Baker, who teaches the D.A.R.E. program at Noel Elementary and Deputy Bill Davenport and DAREN, who teach at Noel and Pineville elementary. This year, Sheriff Hall had the pleasure of teaching his son, who is a student in one of his classes.

Miller County

The Miller County Sheriff’s Office has had a D.A.R.E. Program since the early 2000s. Over the years, the program has grown to serve four Miller County schools – Iberia R-5 School District, Tuscumbia R-3 School District, St. Elizabeth R-4 School District and Our Lady of the Snows Catholic School. The program reaches more than 125 students every year and continues to grow. Deputy Randy Wheeler has been teaching the program since 2014 and Deputy Andrew Wickham since 2018. Deputy Wheeler is currently elected as the Region 5 representative for the Missouri D.A.R.E. Officers Association and has held that position for the last two years. The sheriff’s office is a strong supporter of the program and believes that it works. “D.A.R.E. helps us build an even more positive relationship with our local school officials and students. And if we reach just one child with the program message, then the program is a success,” Deputy Wheeler said.

Nodaway County

Sergeant Rick Smail is the D.A.R.E. and school resource officer for the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office.  He teaches D.A.R.E. in six rural Nodaway County schools as well as the Stanberry School in Gentry County. Sheriff Randy Strong explained they included the Stanberry School because several Nodaway County students are in that district. The program is funded entirely by generous donations from individuals and businesses. Every year, Sgt. Smail, the former president of D.A.R.E. Missouri, holds a dinner and auction that includes autographed sports memorabilia. D.A.R.E. graduation is also a big hit! This year’s after-graduation activity included a trip to see a movie at “The Hangar,” followed by lunch and outdoor activities at Beal Park. Sheriff Strong said he’s thankful for the many businesses and individuals that contribute so much to keep D.A.R.E. in the schools, this year’s D.A.R.E. Board and Sgt. Smail for all he does.

Pettis County

Pettis County Deputy Stephanie Bahner teaches the D.A.R.E. program to fifth grade students at Green Ridge, Dresden, Smithton, Houstonia and LaMonte elementary schools. In July, Bahner, who is posing with Green Ridge teacher Mrs. Kohues, will be celebrating her 15th anniversary with the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office.

Phelps County

Deputy Laura Davis, the 2019 Missouri D.A.R.E. Officers Association president, is in her ninth year of working as the D.A.R.E. instructor for the Phelps County Sheriff’s Office. She teaches the D.A.R.E. program to students from pre-school all the way up to the eighth grade in two rural Phelps County Schools – Phelps County R-III and Newburg Elementary. Phelps County R-III (pictured) recently held its 2019 D.A.R.E. graduation. Newburg’s graduation is not scheduled until May 10.

Ripley County

Deputy Joey Bruner, the school resource officer at the Ripley County Sheriff’s Office, teamed up with the Missouri Department of Transportation four years ago to teach not only the importance of staying safe by staying sober, but also to adopt other safety habits like always wearing seat belts and staying off phones while driving. Deputy Bruner teaches at Naylor, which has 410 students, Lonestar, with 118 students, Gatewood, with 76 students, and Neelyville, which has 632 students. He also teaches at local churches and church camps. Chief Deputy/K-9 Officer Charlie Mays also helps with the program by wearing the Buckle up Buddy costume and bringing K9 Kullo.

Ste. Genevieve County

Jeff McCarty is the D.A.R.E. officer for the Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s Office. He teaches the program at several schools – Bloomsdale Elementary, St. Agnes Catholic School in Bloomsdale, St. Joseph School in Zell and Valle Catholic School in Ste. Genevieve.

Stone County

The Stone County Sheriff’s Office has three deputies teaching D.A.R.E. in five districts. School Resource Officer Sgt. Jason Rantz teaches in the Blue Eye School District, Sgt. Shawn Fields teaches in the Reeds Spring School District, and Cpl. Melissa Riggins, evidence officer and administrator of the Stone County D.A.R.E. Program, teaches in the Hurley, Crane and Galena school districts.