In an effort to educate young children about drugs and alcohol, local RCMP and School District 51 (SD51) have paired together to discuss the social issues surrounding those topics.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, is a comprehensive school-based drug prevention program taught by police officers to children at the Grade 5 level, explained West Kootenay RCMP Cpl. Marty Kooiman.
“The RCMP has a comprehensive drug strategy within A Division, which is what we call British Columbia,” he told The Gazette. “Basically, what we’re doing is there are 14 co-ordinators around British Columbia that are co-ordinating Community Prevention Education Continuums, or CPEC.”
Kooiman pointed out they are trying to partner with the community through a local RCMP detachment with community agencies or volunteer groups, such as the Rotary Club or Lions Club International.
“Our premise is helping kids make healthy, informed decisions when it comes to drugs and alcohol. However, there are other issues that surface that underlie the issues of drugs and alcohol,” he pointed out.
“The premise of the continuum is to educate kids on the social issues that they need to concern themselves with from Kindergarten right up through to Grade 12.”
The DARE program has been around for a long time and originated in the United States before it was adopted in Canada, he added.
It was suggested as the best thing the police could do, in terms of providing information is to give good, healthy choices to kids about smoking, alcohol and marijuana, he went on to say.
The DARE program is usually delivered over a 10-week period in Grade 5 classrooms, with each lesson presented in a fun and factual way, noted Kooiman.
“A lot of kids in Grade 5 start to critically think about their choices so this was found in research that if we wanted to make an impact to kids, before they make the difficult choices, that we would do this type of education in Grade 5,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools for School District 51 Boundary Michael Strukoff noted Kooiman previously gave a presentation to the District Leadership team, which includes Jennifer Turner and Shawn Lockhart.
“The hope is that this new relationship will lead to sustained initiatives on community prevention education across all grades and in a sustained approach,” said Strukoff.
Kooiman noted the pilot program originally began in Castlegar, followed by Trail this year as well as Grand Forks.
“A DARE officer, Christy Halverson, will be going around to classrooms after Christmas (break) to talk about the program,” he said, though details are still being worked out.