Walnut Ridge school welcomes new DARE officer

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - The Walnut Ridge Police Department and Walnut Ridge Middle School counselors, are joining together in an effort to educate students on the dangers of drugs and alcohol use.

For the first time ever, the DARE program is being introduced to their 5th graders. School counselor, Penny Sloan, said she felt the 5th grade was an appropriate year to start educating the students.

"It's a great age to begin knowledge about different things, and not only drugs but about responsibilities and relationships with police officers," said Sloan.

In an effort to start the program, WRPD hired on Officer Gary Tate, who spent the last four years with the DARE program in Randolph County. He's now hoping to influence students at Walnut Ridge to stay drug free.

"I want them to learn to make good and healthy decisions," said Tate. "I want them to know that the police are here to help them, not to hurt them."

With the growing drug problem in Lawrence County, both the school district and police department are working together to bring awareness to the issue, and to teach their youth how to handle future situations.

"I noticed in their books it gives those particular scenarios that they encounter every day," said Sloan. "It gives them the knowledge and practice when those things happen in real life."

It's a teaching tool Officer Tate said is crucial to show them how to handle dealing with the pressures of drugs and alcohol.

"We need to start with our kids and get them on the right path, because they're our future," said Tate. "That's the only way that we're going to fight this problem."

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