Awareness Education

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Byron Catchingsrecently strolled through Brookhaven Academy.

He eyed sixth-grade students. He asked them questions relatingto drugs, alcohol and tobacco, but he wasn’t searching for anything- just sharing some information.

Catchings has been visiting BA and schools within the LincolnCounty School District for more than a month. Area sixth-gradestudents have been studying from a workbook, participating inlectures and group work and writing essays – all a part of theeight to nine weeks Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

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“The classroom setting is a lot better than an assembly programwould be because you get their attention a lot better,” saidCatchings.

D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and it is now beingused in 75 percent of the nation’s school districts and in morethan 43 countries around the world. The program, led by a lawenforcement officer, is based on a series of classroom lessons thatteach children how to resist peer pressure and the dangerous ofdrugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Prior to entering the D.A.R.E. program, officers undergo 80hours of special training in areas such as child development,classroom management, teaching techniques and communicationskills.

“I still bring my investigative skills to the classroom,” saidCatchings. “Inside the classroom, I am trying to know what thestudents already know before I begin to teach them.”

Catchings, who is in his fourth year as a D.A.R.E. instructor,said the program has made great strides in recent years. He said hehas noticed students’ interest in the program has graduallyincreased over the years, more schools are participating in theprogram and students are hearing about D.A.R.E. from the previousclass.

“The schools are loving the program,” Catchings said. “They’llcall me to set up the program now versus me having to callthem.”

BA sixth-grade teachers Beth Case and Lucy Watts agreed that thestudents enjoy the 30-minute program that meets once a week.

Watts said she thinks the program is very beneficial and givesthe students an opportunity to discuss important issues. Eachteacher also thought that with the added pressures of junior highlurking around the corner, sixth-grade was an appropriate age toeducate and introduce the young students to information they mayhave never heard before.

“If they haven’t already had to make those decisions, they willbefore long,” said Watts.

In addition to learning about the harmful effects of drugs andtobacco, Catchings said students are also able to see lawenforcement officials in a different light. He mentioned thatthrough the years students have accepted him better and have beenquicker to talk to him.

“There is a friendly side to us, and we want the children to beable to come to the police if something is going on or something iswrong,” he said.

While Catchings has already been to the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict schools earlier this year, he expects the program tofinish in April for BA and the county schools. He also mentioned aD.A.R.E. graduation program featuring special guests will also beheld in April at the Lincoln Civic Center.

When all is said and done, roughly 430 sixth-grade students willhave gone through the program.

“I don’t want them leaving the classroom without any knowledgeof the program, drugs, or any activity that we’re doing,” saidCatchings.