Portsmouth’s revamped D.A.R.E. program now helps pre-K and third grade students, talks bullying


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office is inviting the community to celebrate students’ achievements at its upcoming D.A.R.E Day.

Officers re-launched the drug prevention program into schools last year, and say because it was so successful they wanted to acknowledge the kids they worked with.

“It’s going to be an achievement of what they did in the last school year,” said Sheriff Michael Moore.

Moore says they used the program years ago, but brought it back after going through new and revamped training.

Leah Stith, Portsmouth’s D.A.R.E. director, says they were originally going to work with fifth grade students, but found that was too late for many.

Officers now start with pre-K students and also educate third graders not just about drug prevention, but life skills.

“A lot of people think it’s just about drugs. It’s more than drugs. It’s about communicating, how to communicate effectively, listening skills, identifying dangerous situations. There’s more than the 10-week period than drugs,” she said.

While drug prevention is still one of the main focuses, Moore says the new program has added other focuses such as bullying, peer pressure, and relationship building with law enforcement.

“The earlier we can develop that relationship, the better it would be for all of us and our community. I think it’s a step forward. It’s a great job our officers do. They’re in schools on a daily basis,” Moore said.

The sheriff says those new focuses are tailored to fit the issues of today and can help combat new drug problems such as the opioid epidemic, marijuana and heroin use.

Moore says that the officers being in classrooms and building those relationships can continue to build consistency with students.

It’s that bright future they’re also celebrating this weekend at their D.A.R.E. Day.

Everyone is welcome to attend. It takes place Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Portsmouth City Park. There will be food, activities, performances and more.

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