‘Together we can’

Maplewood Police Department proposes replacement for D.A.R.E.

For the first time in more than twenty years, there will be no D.A.R.E. graduates from Maplewood this spring.

The Maplewood Police Department cut D.A.R.E. this year, citing the program’s ineffectiveness.

“The data simply is not compelling (us to believe) that (D.A.R.E.) is achieving the kind of outcomes that we would hope it would achieve,” Police Chief Paul Schnell says.

Now, the police department is working with the Maplewood City Council to implement a new program to help young people make wise choices.

Integrative Youth Development strives to benefit students of all ages by encouraging open, supportive relationships between youth and adults in the community.

Integrative Youth Development

At the core of IYD is the “rule of five,” which seeks to ensure that every kid has “at least five positive, caring adults in his or her life who have and communicate high expectations for them,” according to the Institute for Community and Adolescent Resiliency-Unifying Solutions. ICAR-US has been developing and testing IYD for more than 20 years.

“The research is compellingly clear that when kids have five adults (with whom to connect) it has significant (positive) outcomes in terms of their academic success, their future, their earnings (and) their risk behaviors,” Schnell says.

Schnell, who introduced the initiative to the Maplewood City Council, sees IYD as “whole community engagement.” His goal is for everyone in Maplewood to understand and participate in the rule of five.

“The well-being, the health, of young people is the responsibility of all members in the community,” he says. It seems obvious, Schnell adds, but that’s the point: IYD is about creating a community that is more “explicit or purposeful” in helping young people.

By working together to make sure that every kid has five supportive adults in his or her life, Schnell believes Maplewood can “do right by young people for their future success and for the purpose of (crime) prevention,” he says.

Why drop D.A.R.E.?

Mayor Nora Slawik has fond memories of her children going through the D.A.R.E. program, but she recognizes that it’s time to try something new.

“There’s no doubt that the D.A.R.E. program did a good job with drug education and alcohol (education),” she says, “but (IYD) offers a bigger opportunity (to the community) and a more constructive use of police time.”

In the past, three Maplewood police officers spent over 350 hours every year preparing for the 10-week D.A.R.E. program each spring.

When the program was cut, only five schools in Maplewood were still participating in it.

Maplewood City Council member Kathleen Juenemann cites changing times as the reason for D.A.R.E.’s decline.

“Times have changed. D.A.R.E. is not a new program. It’s old. And kids are different,” she says.

With parents working more and people in general being busier, “kids don’t have the same structure to rely on that they used to,” she says. She thinks IYD is an opportunity for Maplewood to respond to the change in society.

“Chief Schnell is trying to bring us something that fits into where society and life has gone,” she says.

Filling the gap

While students and parents were sad to see D.A.R.E. go, public schools in the district were ready for the change.

When D.A.R.E. was cut, Carver Elementary and Weaver Elementary were the only two public schools in District 622 still holding on to the program.

For them, cutting D.A.R.E. means they will fit in with the rest of the district, which already incorporates the topics addressed by D.A.R.E. into regular lessons.

“Curriculum the D.A.R.E. program used to cover will now be covered by district-standard curriculum,” according to a representative from District 622.

Police officers continue to visit classrooms on request, the representative says. Schnell adds that dropping D.A.R.E. gives officers more flexibility to cater to the needs of individual classrooms.

When the decision to cut D.A.R.E. was announced, many parents and students voiced concerns about losing out on one of the biggest benefits of the D.A.R.E. program: positive relationships between students and police officers.

IYD is in many ways an expansion of this benefit. The goal of IYD is to forge relationships between youth and adults, and Schnell says the police play a huge part in that.

Schnell’s hope with IYD is to give each student the opportunity to fill his or her “five” with police officers, firefighters, city council members or other leaders in the community.

“It’s all about connection,” he says. “We’re trying to engage young people.”

Slawik reasons that IYD will engage more young people than D.A.R.E. since it strives to encompass all students. “Compared with D.A.R.E. that reached fifth-graders, (IYD) potentially reaches all kids in the district,” she says.

The future

The Maplewood Police Department plans to introduce IYD to the community this fall. They hope to build the momentum of the initiative by reaching out to schools, business owners, faith communities, rotary clubs and other community groups to educate them about the importance of the rule of five.

They are currently seeking grant money to fund the initiative.

Ideally, they would like to hire someone like Derek Peterson to help them implement the new program. Peterson, founder and CEO of ICAR-US, has helped many communities establish the “rule of five.”

Like any new program, the police department and city council expect IYD to hit a few speed bumps before it gets off the ground. But Slawik expects that strong leadership and community input will make it a successful program.

“This is one I’m putting as a high priority,” Slawik says. “I’m going to put some time into it, and I’m hoping that pays off.”

Juenemann envisions the program bringing the community together, and even making Maplewood a safer, more welcoming place. She thinks IYD could be something that lasts.

“It’s a mindset change,” she says. “The only way we can fail is if we don’t mean it and we don’t participate.”

 

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