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Truth or D.A.R.E.

The anti-drug program definitely works--in trying to promote its own survival.

Not surprisingly, D.A.R.E.'s defenders have their own catalogue of studies, which reach quite different conclusions. Richard Dukes, a sociologist at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, concluded after a 1990 study of fifth-grade pupils in the Springs that D.A.R.E. was successful in "showing positive gains, in terms of self-esteem, bonding with family, school and police, and a more negative attitude toward drugs."

A follow-up survey of the same kids as high-school seniors conducted last January found a significant correlation, Dukes says, "between earlier D.A.R.E. participation and less use of illegal, more deviant drugs such as inhalants, cocaine, LSD."

D.A.R.E. was developed in Los Angeles in 1983 and was initially directed toward students in the upper elementary grades. The program has been in Colorado for about nine years, where it has grown to encompass 106 law enforcement agencies and 95 school districts as of last year, says Lori Sutorius, president of D.A.R.E. Colorado, a nonprofit group that distributes D.A.R.E. T-shirts, buttons, hats and teaching aids and trains the police officers who go into classrooms.

From 1990 to 1994, the local program received $100,000 in federal funding and was administered through the Colorado Department of Education. When the federal well ran dry, a group of volunteers took over the tasks of coordinating D.A.R.E. programs, training officers and distributing the copious fliers and merchandise associated with the program.

Other than a $60,000 state grant in 1994, the state program is now funded by private donations. The programs in individual communities are paid for by a variety of sources, including police departments, school districts and cities. Sutorius says she doesn't think the programs statewide receive any federal money.

In the last few years several D.A.R.E. programs have been cut, notably those in major cities such as Seattle and Oakland. But many don't expect the project to end anytime soon, because of the "political power behind it," says opponent Peterson. "They've all gotten a lot of mileage on this, and it's kind of hard for them to back down. Nobody wants to lose face. They all want to appear to be doing something.

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