15. DARE Program Cover-up Continues

Published: Updated:

Sources: QUILL Date: May 1994, Title: “Editor’s deadline changes to DARE piece stir trouble,” Author: Richard P Cunningham

THE BOSTON GLOBE Date: 9/29/94, Title: “US rejects unfavorable DARE study,” Author: Sean P Murphy; USA TODAY, Date: 10/4/94, Title: “Study critical of DARE rejected,” Author: Dennis Cauchon

SSU Censored Researcher: Jessica Nystrom

SYNOPSIS: The 23rd Censored story of 1993, titled “The Biggest Drug Bust of All,” revealed that the nation’s most popular school-based drug prevention program-Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)-was a failure, and how the media failed to cover the story. The story is nominated again for 1994 for three reasons: 1) evidence that one of the nation’s leading newspapers, The Washington Post, revised an article, without the author’s permission, on behalf of the DARE program; 2) evidence that the U.S. Department of Justice covered up the program’s failure by rejecting a study it com­missioned that concluded that the DARE program doesn’t work; and 3) continued failure of the news media to put the issue on the national agenda.

In November 1993, freelance writer James Bovard submitted an article to The Washington Post that criticized the DARE program for “turning children into informants on drug-using parents or friends.” On Sunday, January 30, 1994, fol­lowing discussions between Post edi­tors and attorneys and DARE attorneys, the article appeared with significant changes … without con­sulting or notifying the author of the changes. On February 4, the Post published a correction admitting an error due to an editing change not discussed with the author. The Post also reimbursed the family cited in the article for costs incurred in negotiating the correction. Commenting on DARE’s influence, the attorney representing the family said, “To be able to control The Washington Post is awesome.”

On September 29, 1994, The Boston Globe reported that the Justice Department had rejected its own study criticizing the DARE program. Justice paid the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) $300,000 for the two year-study that con­cluded “that DARE’s short-term effectiveness for reducing or pre­venting drug use behavior is small. DARE received about $750 million in government appropriations and private donations. RTI found that while DARE improved the stu­dents’ knowledge of drugs and their social skills, it had no significant effect on their use of drugs. Despite the Justice Department’s attempts to have RTI modify its findings, RTI decided to stick with its con­clusions which were published in the American Journal o f Public

Health (AJPH) on October 4, 1994. Dennis Cauchon, the USA Today reporter who wrote the original story on DARE in 1993, reported that the DARE study passed rig­orous scrutiny by academic experts before publication by AJPH. The Journal’s Sabine Beisler said DARE “tried to interfere with the publica­tion of this (article). They tried to intimidate us.” In its conclusion, RTI wrote, “DARE’s limited influ­ence on adolescent drug use behav­iors contrasts with the program’s popularity and prevalence. An important implication is that DARE could be taking the place of other, more beneficial drug use cur­ricula that adolescents could be receiving.”

In rejecting the RTI study, Anne Voitt, Justice Department spokes­woman, said the study did not examine a big enough sample of students involved in DARE to properly judge it. Voitt also said that the DARE study is the first time the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department’s research branch, has rejected a study in recent years.

COMMENTS: Richard P Cunningham, author of the Quill article, said that the “big news media have not written and broad­cast enough about DARE. If they had, local newspapers would know that the program is controversial and would be saying so when DARE comes to their towns. That is not happening in my area: at least two school systems have admitted DARE, but I have never seen anything but positive feature stories about the program.”

Cunningham also points out that if the media provided more coverage on the DARE program, “parents and taxpayers could ask better questions about the philos­ophy, the cost and the effectiveness of DARE.” He concludes that “DARE must reap financial and propaganda benefits from not having to answer hard questions” about the program.

Sean P Murphy, the Boston Globe journalist who reported in September that the Justice Department had rejected its own study criticizing the DARE pro­gram, agreed that the subject hadn’t received sufficient coverage in the mass media. He pointed out that the public would benefit from additional exposure since there are million of dollars at stake … as well as the future of children. The real beneficiary of the limited coverage, Murphy said, was the DARE pro­gram itself.

On Monday, December 12, 1994, the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research released a major national study that revealed that the number of American teens using illicit drugs increased for the third consecutive year. The study showed that mari­juana use increased sharply in all age groups over the past two to three years and that use of LSD and powder and crack cocaine also increased, although not as sharply as marijuana.