There are many approaches to dealing with the alcohol problem on college campuses. Increased enforcement and increased penalties are two topics of consideration. One of the obvious areas of concern seems to get little support from government agencies in terms of funding: education.
The ultimate goal of an alcohol education program should be to get students to make safe, smart decisions.
I believe our time and efforts need to be directed to our elementary and junior high schools. Most kids already have strong beliefs about alcohol by the time they get to college. Our young students are still forming their beliefs, and a well thought out program can have a long-term positive effect.
Spring Township police teach the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program for fifth-grade classes at some of the Bellefonte Area School District elementary
schools. One of the things that makes the class great is the emphasis on teaching decision-making skills. We stress considering consequences of their actions before making a decision.
Students are given real-life situations in which they practice saying no to alcohol and to others in tough peer-pressure situations.
At the end of DARE, students make a pledge not to use drugs or abuse alcohol. The kids mean it when they write it. As we know, as they get older, things change. We need follow-up classes in middle and high school. Programs like Slay the Dragon help, but funding for these classes continues to be cut out of the state budget or not allotted enough time in the school calendar. We should not ask if we can afford these classes; we should ask if we can afford not to continue these classes.
The final piece of education needed by college students, bartenders and in our homes is knowing when someone else has had too much to drink. If we all could learn this valuable lesson and then learn how and when to intervene, many of the problems associated with alcohol would be addressed.
We are often told that if we fail to learn from other people’s mistakes we are doomed to repeat them. Education is the key.
Dale Moore is a detective with the Spring Township Police Department in Bellefonte. He has been a police officer for 20 years and teaches DARE at Pleasant Gap and Marion-Walker elementary schools. He is a member of the Bellefonte Elks Drug Awareness Committee.