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Push For More Anti-Drug Education Revives Memories Of Past Failures

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Anti-drug classes in the 1970s unintentionally taught kids how to take drugs, not prevent them. It happened again in the 90s.

Ohio schools may expand their anti-drug message to students. It's one of the new proposals from Attorney General Mike DeWine aimed at helping the children of opiate addicts. But some members of the Ohio Board of Education remember past drug education failures.

Anti-drug classes in the 1970s unintentionally taught kids how to take drugs, not prevent them. It happened again in the 90s. That’s why school board member Sarah Fowler wondered about ramping up these classes again.

“I’ve talked to some former instructors from D.A.R.E. who even discouraged that as the means of communication for the drug problem--  feeling like, retrospectively, it may have contributed to the problem.”

But programs like D.A.R.E. have a new way of doing things, according to Amy O'Grady from the state attorney general's office.

“They’ve actually changed the curriculum to allow a lot more social- and emotional-learning curriculum, particularly in the lower grade levels," O'Grady says.

Social and emotional learning are meant to teach children how to make good decisions. O’Grady says every district can try its own method of drug prevention, but the Attorney General’s office wants schools to report back to the state on how they do it.

New ideas

The Attorney General's office has issued 15 recommendations that include lessons for kindergarten to 12th grade. O'Grady told state board members that her own daughter has shown results.

“When she was in the first grade, she talked about being a responsible consumer of medication. I about fell over. I thought ‘How does a first-grader know this?’

"But it’s because, at the time, she heard age-appropriate lessons about not taking pills out of the medicine cabinet and listening to me and listening to trusted adults.”

Attorney General Dewine’s office recommends schools survey their students and community to measure results. It wants the Ohio Department of Education to develop guidelines.