For Hometown News
New Smyrna Beach fifth graders may be "daring" to tag their parent's car with their newest prized possession -- a bumper sticker to show they are wise to peer pressure and bullying. More than 300 local fifth graders graduated from the New Smyrna Beach Police Department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, according to D.A.RE. Officer Bob Otto.
"These students are getting ready for middle school," Officer Otto said. "We've spent the past 12 weeks teaching them to handle peer pressure and bullies and how to resist violence and drugs. The curriculum uses life lessons and current events to show what can happen if they aren't strong enough to resist the pressures."
D.A.R.E. graduation is a ceremonious event for students, parents and teachers, Officer Otto added. But rather than marking the end of a program, it's really more of a mid-point in their resistance education.
Officers begin introducing program concepts through brief, age-appropriate discussions in kindergarten. Officers continue to reach out to students through the seventh grade.
"These kids are on their own maturity timeline," Officer Otto explained. "Some may not be ready to listen in an earlier grade but may be receptive as social situations become more difficult later on."
New Smyrna Beach police officers work with the Edgewater Police Department to interact with nearly 2,000 students each year. Schools offering the program include Coronado Elementary, Reed-Patillo Elementary, Sacred Heart, Chisholm Elementary and New Smyrna Beach Middle.
The department has offered the program for more than 25 years.