The Washington Police Department is expanding its outreach to home-schooled children this year by offering a free Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program to the Hope Homeschool Co-Op.
David Burke, school resource officer for the Washington Police Department who helps run the home-school D.A.R.E. program, said this will be the department’s second year offering the program and its first time working with the co-op.
“This allows us to expand our D.A.R.E. program for kids who are not usually able to participate,” Burke said.
The Hope Homeschool Co-Op, a resource for families in Franklin County who home-school their children, offers elective classes for students to participate in.
Kristin Temple, head of Hope Homeschool Co-Op, said the partnership between the two formed after she was approached by Jason Gibson, a student resource officer for the Washington Police Department. “It was a good fit because it’s good for the students to have teachers who are passionate about what they are teaching,” she said.
This will be the first “real semester” of the program because last year’s was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple said.
Burke said the message the program sends students is much larger than drug resistance. “Originally, the message D.A.R.E. sent was all about drug awareness and now it goes a little deeper than that,” he said. “Now it includes a decision-making model and covers bullying, and it teaches skills (children) can use in life as well.”
Gibson said the D.A.R.E. program the department is offering home-schooled children is unique. “From the research we did in developing this program, we were only able to find one other department that offered something similar (for home-schooled children),” he said.
Burke and Gibson said they hope the children’s interaction with law enforcement will help end some of the negative stigma surrounding police.
“There is a stigma with law enforcement that we are these big scary authoritative guys, and when we get to work with the students they see we are funny guys,” Gibson said. “It lets them know we are people they can talk to and trust. People who want to be involved and care about their lives.”
Temple said registration for the class has started off slowly this year and to date only five students are registered.
The program begins Sept. 14 and will feature a one-hour class once a week, for 11 weeks for children between the ages of 10 and 13. The class will be held at Life Stream Church in Washington.
Students in the class will be socially distanced, according to Temple, with masks optional. She added the rooms are cleaned with a special sanitizing solution after each class.
Registration is open up until classes begin. For more information or to register, contact Temple at firstname.lastname@example.org.