Manassas Journal Messenger | Program focuses on new problems

Today’s students face problems in school their predecessors didn’t.

Drugs were an issue 1987 when police started the Drug Awareness Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., program, but the Internet and the need for Internet safety were non-existent.

Gangs had not made an appearance in public schools.

To combat the new set of problems children face, the Prince William County Police Department has designed a new program to replace D.A.R.E.

Lt. Kevin Hughart introduced the Basic Elementary Addiction, Wellness & Abuse Resource Education, or “Be Aware,” program to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday.

Hughart commands the Prince William Juvenile Bureau and has been working with the school system for four of the last five years.

During that time, he’s evaluated the changing needs of the county’s schools.

He designed the Be Aware program with input from teachers, principals and officers who taught the D.A.R.E. program.

“It’s been a long, ongoing thing. It’s nothing that happened overnight,” Hughart said.

Ten concerns kept “coming to the forefront,” Hughart told supervisors during his unveiling of the program.

Prevention of bullying, gang awareness, drug and alcohol awareness, conflict management, stealing, Internet safety, personal decision-making skills, curfew and runaway concerns, personal safety and class action always came up as problems today’s students need to know how to address.

The class action component teaches children about how shoplifting and curfew laws, for example, apply to juveniles, Hughart said.

Be Aware’s main advantage is its flexibility, he said.

Unlike the D.A.R.E. program, Be Aware is set up in component form. Each of the 10 components, or lessons, can be taught individually as schools need them, Hughart said.

Be Aware’s flexibility will also help police meet a need at a particular school when the need arises, Hughart said.

For instance, if a principal reports a bullying problem, one of five officers can take the bullying prevention lesson to that school to help with the problem, Hughart said.

Officers were unable to respond similarly with the D.A.R.E. program.

“We weren’t always able to get an officer there right away to meet the need,” Hughart said.

Another advantage of the Be Aware program is that it can be taught in any grade level between kindergarten and fifth grade.

“The lesson plan will be tailored to match the grade level,” Hughart said.

D.A.R.E. was taught only to fifth graders.

Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, R-Dumfries, a proponent of D.A.R.E., supports Be Aware, she said.

The police are in the position to know if a new program is going to work for Prince William County Public Schools, she said.

“I think because of the gangs, the drugs, the alcohol, everything is so different now,” Caddigan said.“They’ve got their finger on the pulse and they’ll take care of everybody.”

The police department will fund the program this year, Caddigan said.

The Be Aware program, which police will teach beginning this school year, is unique to Prince William County.

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