DARE officers educate children with an eye on preventing crime

by Clarke Davis

Gaining knowledge about drugs and alcohol, dealing with peer pressure, and the latest concern among youth, bullying, are dealt with in a DARE class taught by sheriff’s officers Dana Boyer and Clay McHardie.

DARE — Drug Abuse Resistance Education — is a 12-week course for sixth-graders at Valley Falls and fifth-graders at Jefferson West and Oskaloosa taught by Boyer. McHardie teaches the class at Jefferson County North, Perry-Lecompton, and McLouth.

Dana Boyer DARE

Deputy Dana Boyer

Boyer believes it’s a good and necessary program, but she hasn’t always been convinced. A sheriff’s deputy for 10 years and a school resource officer, she has had to deal with a number of young people for whom the program appeared to have failed.

“It made me wonder,” she said. “Are we really touching the kids?”

Now schooled as a DARE instructor and working with the children first hand, she’s convinced it does make a difference, although it’s hard to measure the results.

She was in Reno County this summer where budget constraints had put an end to the program.

“The people there were sad it was gone. The teachers were true believers,” she said.

McHardie is convinced that preventing law enforcement problems is the most important work they can do.

“If one student someday is able to get out of a bad situation because of what they learned in class, is that a failure or a success?” he asked.

The educational program explains to the children what drugs are, the dangers, the legalities, the health issues, and the criminality that often results.

They are informed about the damage to brain cells and warned about other dangerous activities the kids hear about, such as “huffing.”

Many of the children are hunters and they are told what a meth lab consists of and warned that if they come across one to leave it alone because of the dangerous chemicals.

“I tell them what we find when we go into a drug bust,” Boyer said. “Unfortunately some already know. They grow up with it.”

Clay McHardie DARE

Deputy Clay McHardie

One of the aspects of a school resource officer — their job when they are not in the DARE class — is to deal with junvenile crime on school property, but mostly to just be there for the kids, to let them know that an officer of the law is someone they can confide in and trust.

“We want them to know that we are people who are just like they are,” Boyer said.

As resource officers they are called on to discuss a number of topics in various classes. McHardie noted that he has addressed Internet safety and domestic violence in a home economics class.

The law and courts are often a topic in any social studies class and they like to be involved in the driver’s education classes where the big topic is cell phones and other distractions that make driving unsafe and kill too many young people. Discussion of drugs usually comes up in health class.

“I try to be in each school every day and the students know they can talk with me in confidence,” McHardie said. “They have my cell phone number and can call day or night.”

Each DARE class has a “DARE Box” in which the students can drop comments and suggestions. Their letters to the deputies can be anonymous and the students do often pour out their hearts to them.

“They often just need to tell someone what is going on in their lives,” Boyer said.

She often hears about parents who their children think smoke too much, or drink too much, and fight and argue.

“They deal with so much stuff. It helps to confide in someone,” she said.

Society’s acceptance or indifference to some drugs and alcohol also affects the outcome of what is taught in the classroom.

While marijuana is more commonplace in society and is now showing up more routinely in movies, to Boyer and McHardie it is still a gateway drug.

“If a young person will try marijuana, why wouldn’t they try any other drug available?” Boyer asks.

Next year, Boyer will launch a pilot program in Oskaloosa called “Keeping it Real.” This will be an extension of the DARE program, only geared to a little older age group.

Here she will advance the discussions on being confident and building self-esteem.

Boyer said it is not uncommon when officers break up an underage drinking party that there will be two groups. One that is drinking and one that isn’t.

“We have to keep working on the message, ‘You don’t have to do it,’ ” she said.

Boyer is a North Topeka native and Seaman High School graduate. She joined the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department as a corrections officer working in the jail in 1996. She became a school resource officer in 1999 and during the summer she works in a variety of law enforcement areas, often filling in for vacations or wherever they are shorthanded.

She is married to Jason Boyer, a sergeant with the sheriff’s department and chief of police for the city of Meriden. They have two sons, Hunter, 10, and Brodie, 4.

McHardie is a Perry native and a 1995 graduate of Perry-Lecompton High School. He and his wife, Heather, are expecting their first child in March.

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Posted by on Jan 21 2011. Filed under County News, Featured, Schools. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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