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Knox Co. Sheriff, KCS to Bring D.A.R.E. Back With New, More Effective Curriculum

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The average age children first use drugs or alcohol is 12 years old, according to the Helen Ross-McNabb Center.

A recent Knox County Health Department survey found one in four Knox County students reported trying a cigarette. 25 percent also reported trying alcohol.

RELATED: 35 high school students admit to cocaine use in Knox Co. Health Dept. survey

It's a battle against drug use that's been going on for decades.

If you were born in the '80s or '90s, you probably remember--and if you were a parent, you heard about D.A.R.E.

Drug Abuse Resistance Education is making a comeback here in Knox County, and the sheriff says it's a new approach to a timeless message: just say no.

In 2002 the message was simple -- don't do drugs.

Children across the nation took part in the D.A.R.E Program, where officers taught students a strong anti-drug message.

RELATED: D.A.R.E. program returning to Knox County schools

It was popular, but studies showed it wasn't as effective as leaders hoped.

"Now that D.A.R.E. has stepped back up again and started implementing some new curriculum, if you will, it's exciting," Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler said.

Those new curriculum choices have Spangler enthusiastic about bringing the program to Knox County students.

RELATED: TBI Crime in Tennessee: Murder and serious crime down, meth crimes up in 2018

"You're going to hear more about consequences of drug use," Spangler said. Obviously, that was there -- start hitting on that again. Effective communication, decision-making -- there's more to the curriculum now than what there was."

There will be fewer lectures and more interaction between students and officers.

Metro Drug Coalition Executive Director Karen Pershing says that's important.

"It's important for kids to be a part of the learning process, and to not just sit and have information thrown at them," Pershing said.

She said once young adults have a drug dependency, their decision making is affected.

RELATED: More teens are vaping, but binge drinking and opioid use is down

That's why it's important to prevent the dependency in the first place.

"The brain has to re-engage and has to become healthy again in order for them to remember what they learned in the D.A.R.E. Program and other information they had growing up," Pershing said.

Under the program, four deputies will teach classes for one hour a week at certain Knox County schools.

And it's not the first area to bring it back.

Roane County, Greene County, Alcoa and Oliver Springs all have D.A.R.E. Programs.

And Anderson County has something similar.

Pershing says expanding the program will also be key.

"My hope is, over time, that we could actually implement something like this from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade because that's what we know works for prevention," Pershing said.

The Knoxville Police Department dropped D.A.R.E. in 2007.

Sheriff Spangler said the program's cost won't be a factor since D.A.R.E. provides most of the materials.

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