A recent survey of eighth graders shows 10 percent have smoked cigarettes and nearly 20 percent have tried alcohol. With numbers like that, Leon County has started a new DARE program, which targets middle schoolers who are more likely to come face to face with drugs and drinks.
"You don't necessarily have to give a reason, but we give you the reasons because maybe it will help you out.”
Seventh graders at Belle Vue Middle School are learning to say no all over again now that they're older and more likely to encounter or try cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.
DEP Jimmy Goodman says, "They're mobile now. Most fifth graders are home with mom and dad. Now, they're out into the neighborhoods, they're out into the streets with their friends; that's where they're going to encounter those types of opportunities to try these things."
DARE has traditionally been taught in elementary school and will continue to be, but this year for the first time, Leon County seventh graders will also get a dose of "DARE," a more grown up version, that includes lots of real life scenarios.
Terrell Lynn, a seventh grader, says, "Don't just sit up and see somebody else doing something they don't want to do just because they think they're cool; just use your own brain instead of using theirs."
Amber Sutton adds, "You're getting older and you're thinking about different things, so I think it's more real now."
School Resource Officer Jimmy Goodman points out 80 percent of teens don't drink and 90 percent don't smoke, and he hopes teens in these classes will join that “in crowd.”
LCSO is already trying to find funds to expand DARE into high schools.