Word started spreading this week that the Washington County Sheriff’s Department was going to suspend its D.A.R.E. program. School administrators across the county were notified by Sheriff Dale Schmidt.
Below is a statement from Schmidt regarding the reason for the decision.
On December 4, I notified 11 elementary school principals that I was suspending the D.A.R.E. program in their school for the 2016 Spring semester. The primary reason for this decision is staffing.
The departure, to private sector employment, of our full time Public Relations Deputy, along with existing vacancies in the Deputy position, presents a challenge for staffing D.A.R.E. classes in the spring 2016 semester.
Although we have four remaining certified instructors, two (a Sergeant and a Detective) were scheduled to end D.A.R.E. instruction at the end of 2015. This is to allow them more time for their primary duties.
A recruitment among Deputies interested in becoming D.A.R.E. certified only provided one person. This would leave the department with only three Deputies to instruct the 18 classes at 11 schools.
Additionally, the department has nine Deputies with a year or less of experience, and four Deputy vacancies yet to fill. Patrol shifts have been run at minimum staff levels with a large amount of mandatory overtime all year. Under these staffing circumstances, having the three D.A.R.E. Officers work patrol assignments rather than instruct the 18 D.A.R.E. classes is the right priority.
One of the greatest benefits of the D.A.R.E. program is the relationship it builds between the department, school staff and the students. This is important for school security among other things. The Sheriff’s Office will definitely continue with the Deputy School Visit program as I believe it is very valuable to have near daily contact with the elementary schools. Also, we will attempt to fill requests for a Deputy to attend “one-time” topic specific events at the schools will be filled.
Over the next few months, my staff and I will determine the best course of action in regards to our ability to continue the D.A.R.E. program and/or other school security measures in the future.
Photo courtesy fox6now.com