WASHINGTON COUNTY - The new school year begins August 10 for Washington County students - and with it comes the restoration of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) curriculum for those in the fifth grade.

The anti-drug program, which has been absent from local schools for a decade, is returning through the efforts of Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews.

Founded in 1983 by the Los Angeles Police Department, D.A.R.E. gained popularity and was soon in 75 percent of U.S. school districts. The program fell out of favor after studies criticized the program for not preventing drug use, but proponents say new research has led to the revamping of the program, and it is bring adapted by a growing number of Florida sheriffs.

Locally, D.A.R.E., will be geared to teach students how to say no, but Crews says most importantly, as the program’s vision states, it is meant to empower the children to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors.

In addition to the original center of teaching students about the resistance of using drugs, D.A.R.E. now gives lessons on life skills, anti-bullying, and internet safety.

There is also a curriculum for younger students that includes stranger danger and bicycle safety, which will

be taught throughout the school year as well.

Sheriff Crews, who has gained a reputation for his "zero tolerance" of drugs, says the program's return is part of his desire to provide a safer place for citizens. Crews also states he insisted D.A.R.E be brought back into schools and intends for it to be a long running program.

“The ages the program will target is crucial to the development of our young people’s future success and it

contains invaluable lessons for them,” Crews said. “I appreciate the support and encouragement of

the school board during the process of bringing this program back into our schools. We all see the

importance of teaching our children to make positive life choices while also providing them with the

necessary tools to do so.”

School Resource Officers have attended an 80-hour class this summer to become certified D.A.R.E. officers

and say they look forward to this program, which will "be another way to encourage and influence the children in

positive ways."

“We are always looking for ways to build bridges between law enforcement and our children,” Crews said.

“This program will allow deputies to spend more time in classroom settings, showing them that we truly

care about them.”