School board discusses lack of D.A.R.E. program at Ferriday Upper

Published 12:13 am Friday, November 10, 2017


VIDALIA — Ferriday Upper Elementary fifth- and seventh-graders did not have a D.A.R.E. program last year and are not on track for the program this year, a deficiency the school board highlighted at the meeting Thursday.

“A lot of people are upset that Ferriday is not having D.A.R.E.,” Concordia Parish School Board President Raymond Riley said. “I don’t care about us adults and the political bureaucracy all over the parish, our children are our children.”

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Riley said the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program is vital for students in the parish, and that if Ferriday students could not have the program like other schools in the parish do, no one should.

“We can’t talk to our kids enough about drugs,” Riley said. “It’s going to happen in the community but if we can stop one kid from doing it, that’s a life saved.”

The D.A.R.E. program is an approximately 12-week program in which students attend 45-minute classes to learn about drugs, the effect of drugs on the human body.

When students finish the program, they have their own “graduation” ceremony.

Riley said he asked local law enforcement officials about the D.A.R.E. program.

He invited administrators from the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Vidalia Police Department and Ferriday Police Department to come to the meeting. No representative of Ferriday was at the meeting.

Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy David Hedrick said the implementation of D.A.R.E. is no longer under the purview of the sheriff’s office.

To receive a D.A.R.E. certified teacher in a school, the city in which a school is located must first apply for a grant each year.

Before 2009, the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office applied for all grants for Concordia Parish schools and sent D.A.R.E. teachers to those schools.

In 2009, Vidalia and Ferriday opted to apply for their own grants, and the sheriff’s office continued to provide D.A.R.E. officers to schools outside of those cities.

Therefore, Hedrick said, the sheriff’s office no longer has control of Ferriday’s D.A.R.E. program.

“I can’t speak for the town of Ferriday,” Hedrick said. “Their police department takes care of Ferriday fifth-graders. Last year, they didn’t get a grant in time for (D.A.R.E.) graduation.”

Hedrick said he grew up in Ferriday and wanted those students to receive D.A.R.E training just as much as board members did.

Riley asked if the current D.A.R.E. officer for the other schools in Concordia Parish could share her time and teach in Ferriday as well.

Concordia Parish’s D.A.R.E. teacher quit last month, Hedrick said, and he asked Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill if Vidalia’s officer, Christie Bowman, could cover the parish schools.

This, he said, leaves just one D.A.R.E. certified teacher for Vidalia and Concordia’s parish schools.

Chief Joey Merrill said if it is possible for Bowman to serve Ferriday schools as well as the rest of the parish each week, he would be open to that option.

Riley said if Bowman could split her time between the other parish schools, he hoped she could squeeze Ferriday in as well.

“We keep saying next year and next year something else may happen,” Riley said. “If she can do Vidalia and Monterey and Delta Charter — it hurts my guts to hear that — why can’t she be covered if it’s possible for her to go and cover Ferriday?”

In the long run, however, Hedrick said the parish simply needs more D.A.R.E. officers.

Hiring more D.A.R.E. officers isn’t simple, however, Hedrick said.

A prospective officer must attend a two-week training program with D.A.R.E. and must be a Peace Officer Standards and Training-certified police officer with at least two years of working on a police force.

“Every time we make someone a D.A.R.E. teacher, that takes someone off patrol,” Hedrick said.

Despite those hang-ups, Hedrick said they do have a candidate in mind, but the man must first go through POST training and D.A.R.E. training before he can be hired. And there is not D.A.R.E. school until June 2018.

“If we’re not able to get a D.A.R.E. teacher for the town of Ferriday this year, I believe we need to take that grant over,” Hedrick said. “What we’d like to do next year is get a couple extra D.A.R.E. teachers and make arrangements with the school board to get those students caught up.”

Riley said he understood that it would take effort to get a D.A.R.E. officer to Ferriday, but that he hoped the superintendent, the sheriff’s office and the police department would figure it out for the sake of the children.

“The ball was dropped because of a former employee. That’s none of our fault,” Riley said. “The only way we can make it possible is if we maneuver some people around.”

A D.A.R.E. officer currently works in Ferriday, Riley said, but that officer did not do the mandatory 12-hour training necessary to keep his certification up-to-date, and is now unqualified to teach.

“The guy that is over there,” Riley said. “He didn’t want to do it anyway; you can’t make someone do something if they don’t want to do it.”

Riley said he hoped this meeting would be a first step toward solving the problem.

“I appreciate both of you guys coming,” Riley said. “Let’s just take some time and get this figured out.”