- Maize Unified School District 266
Maize USD 266 returns D.A.R.E. program and adds an SRO for elementary schools
The D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program teaches students how to make healthy choices and good decisions. Maize USD 266 brought the program back this school year, and more than 600 fifth graders at Maize Intermediate School and Maize South Intermediate School will participate.
“It’s so important,” said Jesolyn Trego, Maize Police Officer and School Resource Officer (SRO) who teaches D.A.R.E. at Maize South Intermediate School. “I think we can really change the path for some of these kids … as they continue to go through the school system and then out into the world.”
The program teaches students about bullying, not doing drugs or using alcohol, not falling into peer pressure, and making good decisions, Trego said.
The school district worked with the Maize Police Department to bring the D.A.R.E. program back into schools. The police department funds the program and the officers who teach the sessions. It was not a hard decision to bring the program back because the community wanted it, said Tim Brant, Maize USD 266 Executive Director of Health, Safety, and Prevention, who has a background in law enforcement.
“We see a lot of things in the news, like violence, and having the officers in schools is one deterrent that we have in place,” Brant said. “I’m excited about it coming. I’ve seen the long-term benefit from it. And I think, over time, we’re going to see the long-term benefit of it here.”
Plus, Brant said, D.A.R.E. serves as an effective tool to enhance communication between parents and their children regarding topics like drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure.
D.A.R.E. is a 10-week program, and each session is 45 minutes long. It was originally started in Los Angeles by the police department and teachers in the 1980s to combat problems police were seeing in the community. It is now offered around the country.
“The ultimate goal is to enhance the relationships across the community between the school district, the parents and students, and law enforcement and maybe try to break down some barriers,” Brant said. “It’s an effective tool to build a positive relationship between the young kids and law enforcement.”
Trego has been a police officer for eight years and a school resource officer for two years. She started teaching D.A.R.E. at Maize South Intermediate in August. Maize Intermediate School’s D.A.R.E program started in mid-September.
“This is such an impressionable grade. It's great to just be here and interact with so many kids on a daily basis,” Trego said. “You get a chance to interact with these kids before they get to middle school, to have a positive interaction, and maybe change the way they look at police officers. They can have a sense of security when they come to school.”
The D.A.R.E. program is only one change Maize USD 266 is making this school year in terms of SRO presence. There are currently school resource officers in the intermediate, middle, and high schools. This year, there will be an additional SRO who splits time between the five elementary schools, which house grades kindergarten through 4.
Brant said it’s rare that a school district has an SRO in elementary schools.
“That’s almost unheard of across the United States,” Brant said. “Over 65 percent of the SROs in the U.S. are dedicated to high schools. So for us to put them all the way down into our elementary schools, that’s an accomplishment for the school district.”
In 2022-23, Maize USD 266 went from three SROs to six SROs in schools. This year, the school district added a seventh SRO, and the position will rotate between elementary schools. Next school year, the district will try to add another SRO in the elementary schools.
“Our ultimate goal is to keep kids in school and keep them learning,” Brant said. “When you look at all those things coupled together, the school district has done a phenomenal job trying to make sure kids are safe and that they’re staying in school and learning.”
Brant said that parents likely will notice their kids talking about the SROs and the D.A.R.E. program.
“Parents are going to hear their kids talking about being around the officers and the fun things that will go on with them, because there will be fun things,” Brant said. “I think that’s going to put parents a little more at ease over the safety of their kids at school.”
Maize Police Officer Jesolyn Trego teaches D.A.R.E., a program recently added at both Maize Intermediate School and Maize South Intermediate School. She said the D.A.R.E. program focuses on how students can make informed decisions and on bullying, peer pressure, and the dangers of drug and alcohol use.