Mentor's Lament

Even tough, effective teachers like Angela Kirkendall struggle to shield inner-city kids from the lure of the streets

DARE doesn't work. That's what numerous researchers have found time and again. DARE America officials, however, say the program's popularity--DARE is implemented in 70 percent of the nation's school districts--is a better gauge of its effectiveness than scientific studies. But comparisons of drug use by children who have been through the program and those who have not show that the program does not reduce substance abuse.

A report by the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention says that DARE doesn't work because it doesn't last long enough, because it involves outsiders coming to class to lecture students and because it unrealistically expects children to stand firm against any kind of drug experimentation. Researchers note that not only does DARE fail to keep kids from using drugs, but that its detailed descriptions of certain drugs may actually facilitate some drug use.

The report also criticizes GREAT, saying that it is "almost entirely devoid of content and methods focusing on teaching students social competency skills." A preliminary study of GREAT suggested that some gains were made among students, but that the effect was very small.

The same Justice Department report describes school strategies that seem much more effective in cutting down juvenile delinquency. Researcher Denise Gottfredson, one of the report's authors, describes an inner-city Baltimore school that made remarkable progress by simply clarifying and enforcing its rules of discipline. "Schools in which students notice clear school rules and reward structures and unambiguous sanctions also experience less disorder. These schools are likely to signal appropriate behavior for students." With a coordinated effort by teachers, students and administrators, there was no ambiguity about what constituted bad behavior or what its penalty would be. The school also instituted a "career exploration program, which exposed youth to positive role models in the community."

Gottfredson concludes that the best way to reduce delinquency and substance abuse in students is to use school staff and students themselves to enforce firm, fair rules about behavior, both good and bad, while exposing students to successful adult role models and career possibilities.

This is precisely what Rose Linda has done.
Ann Adams, the retiring librarian, says that Rose Linda has been able to create remarkable discipline because of a coordinated effort by every staff member. "You have to have it from the superintendent on down. If you don't have back-up from the administration when you send someone to the office, it falls apart," she says.

Preciado says the school maintains good discipline by providing lots of incentive to be good. "The students don't want something like tagging to ruin a dance or a trip. And we've canceled activities to follow through on a threat. We'll tell them to give up a beeper, for example, or we'll cancel a dance," he says.

Sergeant Ferrero, who works in the Phoenix Police Department's Street Gang Investigations Unit, defends the use of DARE and GREAT, but agrees that schools also must create a coordinated effort between teachers and administrators that keeps students under constant observation.

"It's all one big net, it all needs to work together," Ferrero says. "The worst thing they could do is ignore the problem."

Experts like Don Kodluboy and University of Southern California professor Malcolm Klein agreed with the Department of Justice report that found that DARE is ineffective. But they were encouraged by Rose Linda's other strategies to combat gang wanna-be behavior.

Kodluboy, the Minneapolis psychologist, was impressed that Arizona Cardinals player Allen DeGraffenreid visited his "knuckleheads" so many times throughout the school year.

"Sounds like he's met the test for a really good mentor. An athlete showing up for a short time is a good thing. But an athlete persisting, and hanging in there, that's much more impressive to me."

DeGraffenreid says he didn't want to be like other athletes, who show up in depressed areas purely for public-relations reasons to help the image of pro teams. "I didn't want to be one of these guys who just came and went," he says. "I wanted to go somewhere where the kids actually needed some help."

Lopez and Preciado both lauded DeGraffenreid's dedication and say that the eighth graders he's been counseling have all raised their grades.

But Gottfredson, in her report, and Klein both warn that outsiders brought to counsel kids don't always gain credibility with students, who too easily see their benefactors as disingenuous. That may be the case with DeGraffenreid's eighth graders.

New Times obtained a note from one of the knuckleheads to another that was written near the end of the school year:

G----- dogg! I'm sorry you can't walk through the line [at graduation ceremonies] but like your daddy said, 'Keep your head up.' You and I both are probably the only ones who have been caught up in this web of bullshit. Mr. Preciado and Ms. Lopez could give a rat's ass about our ghetto life. [Rose Linda's former principal] lives down the street from my dad in Ahwatukee. Do you think he'd actually send his kids here to Rose Linda? Hell no. His boys go to [illegible school name] and next they'll go to Desert Vista, not South Mountain. Allen [DeGraffenreid] thinks he knows what it's like, but he don't know shit. He don't live 7th Street and Broadway. No! That muthafucker lives in Scottsdale right by Fashion Square! But you know what? Fuck everybody because only the strong survive.

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