BENTON - Area schools will no longer be provided with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) Program from the Scott County Sheriff's Department. According to Sheriff Bill Ferrell, the change is the result of personnel shortage as the main factor.
"As we get ready to move into the new jail, our request for what we thought to be the minimum staffing has been cut," Ferrell said. "As a result, we will fall eight people short of what we feel we need to operate the new jail."
Ferrell said the present staff will have to dedicate their time to getting the new jail up and running. "Without the additional personnel, there won't be enough time for the two D.A.R.E. officers to bring the program to area schools."
The sheriff started the D.A.R.E. program in Scott County schools in 1990 with the late Deputy Robert Knight as the first deputy assigned to the program. His office brought the program to all public and private schools in Scott County, with the exception of Sikeston. "The D.A.R.E. program has always been a high priority or us, but with budget requests cut and shortage of staff, we don't have a choice," he said. "We have had budget cuts before in our DARE program but were able to continue because of private donations to keep it going."
Capt. Brenda Schiwitz, who is one of the two D.A.R.E. teachers and supervisor of the D.A.R.E. program for the past several years, estimates that thousands of students in Scott County Central, Oran Elementary, Guardian Angel Parochial, Kelly Middle, Scott City Middle, St. Denis Parochial, St. Joseph Parochial, Chaffee Elementary, St. Ambrose Parochial and Kelso C-7 have participated in D.A.R.E.
"The success of the D.A.R.E. program can't be measured because we never hear about them," Ferrell added. "The publicity D.A.R.E. receives is usually from those who voice negative comments who don't think it works.
"D.A.R.E. is not just about drugs," he continued. "D.A.R.E. kids learn to make good choices and how to improve their self-esteem. We see first hand what happens to young people who don't know how to make good choices in life and who end up in the courts and in jail."
Ferrell said he believes thousands of Scott County students are better informed about the dangers of drugs and the consequences of making good choices in life because they participated in DARE classes. "We have received many positive comments from both students and parents who have supported the DARE program."
Suggestions or comments concerning the D.A.R.E. program are welcome at Ferrell's Website: showme.net/scottcountysheriff