Bob Lucas has been involved with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in Jackson County since its inception 23 years ago.

After spending time behind the scenes, Lucas stepped into a teaching role 10 years ago, educating fifth-graders on the dangers of drugs and alcohol and the negative effects of bullying and other issues.

But Lucas recently found it difficult to manage his D.A.R.E. duties with his full-time job as a crime scene technician at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.

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He knew Jeff Walters, a full-time deputy at the department, had expressed interest in the program, so Lucas decided to turn it over to him.

Walters went through D.A.R.E. Officer Training this year in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and now is ready to work with students at Crothersville, Medora and Lutheran Central.

“Even before I became a police officer, going on a little bit over 10 years now, I knew about the program and always thought it put an impact on kids’ lives for a positive effect,” Walters said. “I think it’s just an awesome program. I was really glad to get the opportunity. I’m really looking forward to it.”

When D.A.R.E. started in the county, an officer also taught students at Seymour, Freetown and Brownstown. But police officers in Seymour and Brownstown took over the program at their schools, and Freetown closed and merged with Brownstown.

The program’s target age group always has been fifth-graders. Walters will work with those kids once the 2015-16 school year begins.

But with the approval of Lucas and Sheriff Michael Carothers, Walters is visiting with kindergarten teachers at Crothersville, Medora and Lutheran Central to see about working with that age group this school year.

That stems from a 15-minute presentation Walters had to give to kindergartners during his training.

“It just touched me, and I just want to do something here, start them a little bit younger, get them introduced to D.A.R.E.,” Walters said. “I didn’t realize the impact that it makes on the younger kids. I think we overlook them — they are smart, they are up-to-date, they see things that you and I see. If we can get started with them, the younger, the better, I think.”

Walters’ training was 10 to 12 hours per day Monday through Friday for two weeks at the Kentucky D.A.R.E. Training Center.

On the first day, a teacher from Tennessee taught the officers the fundamentals of how to interact with kids. The rest of the time consisted of learning the curriculum and a lot of public speaking.

“It’s just getting you more relaxed up in front of people, which I’ve been fortunate really never bothered me,” Walters said.

“The first day that we were there, right after lunch, they got us up and started right in,” he said. “You had a word on a piece of paper, and you had to draw it and do a two-minute session on that particular word, whatever it may be. Then, it went into a 15-minute presentation all the way up to a 45-minute presentation.”

Officers went to elementary schools in the Elizabethtown area to complete the 15- and 45-minute presentations.

“I learned a lot of knowledge just talking with kids,” he said. “It just helps you with not only maybe at home raising your own family but just things to help these kids out. If we can affect somebody’s life, then we’ve more than done our job is the way I look at it.”

Walters said the kindergarten program will be eight sessions of 10 to 15 minutes each, while his time with fifth-graders at the three schools will be 45 minutes once a week for 10 weeks.

Lucas said that when the program began in the county it was a 17-week course.

The curriculum also has changed over the years. Today’s lessons include the health effects of and facts about tobacco and alcohol, risks and consequences, peer pressure, dealing with stressful situations, verbal and nonverbal types of communication, effective listening, bullying and helping others.

The curriculum involves a decision-making model where kids have to define, assess, respond and evaluate in a variety of situations.

Lucas said he particularly likes the lesson on bullying.

“Bullying is huge, and it’s an issue we have to look at that may have been ignored over the years,” he said. “The schools that I have taught in have been fantastic for issues when it comes to bullying. They don’t ignore it. It’s a huge issue, and they deal with it.”

Another change to the program is that smart-boards now are used during the lessons, creating more interaction with the kids. That goes along with activities they complete in workbooks. They also keep journals.

As he begins working with local students, Walters said, he hopes it gives them a better understanding of police officers.

“Cops get a bad rap with all the stuff going on,” he said. “Getting them introduced to police officers in a positive way, maybe that will affect them throughout their lives, maybe even help them at home.”

Now that he is done teaching D.A.R.E., Lucas said he is going back behind the scenes. He will help Walters any time he needs it, and he might be found donning the Daren the Lion suit during the program’s graduation ceremony this spring.

Lucas said he sees the value in D.A.R.E. and will continue to support it. While it takes several thousand dollars to fund the program, the schools don’t pay anything.

Fundraisers are conducted throughout the year, and that goes toward presenting scholarships to seniors at Brownstown Central, Crothersville, Medora and Trinity Lutheran high schools who graduated from D.A.R.E.

Lucas said some statistics have shown D.A.R.E. doesn’t work. But he disagrees.

“If we don’t have D.A.R.E., it’s a sure bet we’re not going to touch any of the kids,” he said. “Does it save them all? No. I’ve arrested kids that have been through my D.A.R.E. classes. But does the program work? You bet. We need to be there.”

For any officers interested in becoming involved in D.A.R.E., Lucas recommends it.

“D.A.R.E. is a calling. If you’ve got an officer you’re forcing to go to D.A.R.E., it will not work,” he said. “I think every police officer needs to go through the schools and spend time with these kids because, for me, every year, the things that we see out on the road, the things that I investigate out here as a tech, these kids remind me of why I put this uniform on.”

On the Web

For information about the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, visit dare.org.

Walters file

Name: Jeff Walters

Age: 43

Hometown: Liberty, Kentucky

Residence: Seymour

Education: Casey County High School (1988); Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (2006)

Occupation: Jackson County Sheriff’s Department (started as a reserve officer in July 2005 before becoming a full-time deputy in March 2006)

Experience: Certified GLOCK armorer; certified sniper; member of sheriff’s department’s SWAT team; Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer

Family: Wife of 17 years, Candida Walters; daughter, Jami Walters; stepdaughter, Kristian Mails; two stepgrandchildren

Lucas file

Name: Bob Lucas

Age: 58

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Brownstown

Education: Seymour High School (1974); Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (2000); Indiana State Police Crime Scene Investigation School (2009)

Occupation: Jackson County Sheriff’s Department (reserve officer from 1987 to 2000, full-time officer from 2000 to 2007, detective from 2007 to 2010, and crime scene investigator and technician from 2010 to present)

Experience: Certified GLOCK armorer; Drug Abuse Resistance Education program for 23 years

Family: Wife of 38 years, Kim Lucas; daughters, Karra Lucas and Stacie Teipen; one grandchild

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.