It’s the end of August, which means that kids all over the country are soaking in the last of the summer sunshine and gearing up for school starting up again. If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, an important part of the school year was Drug Abuse Resistance Education – also known as D.A.R.E.
D.A.R.E. began as a small program in Los Angeles in the early ’80s, but grew to a major, national campaign in schools. At it’s peak, D.A.R.E. was implemented in 75% of American schools.
The program was founded in 1983 as a joint project between the Los Angeles Police Department and the LA Unified School District as a way for school-aged children to resist drugs. D.A.R.E. was taught by local police officers, with the idea that they are more credible in drugs and criminal activity than a teacher.
D.A.R.E. taught kids about the dangers of substance abuse, helped them practice “just say no,” and helped boost their confidence and self-esteem. It quickly became a national movement, partially funded by the federal government as part of the War on Drug’s and Nancy Regan’s anti-drug campaign. In 1988, US presidents began recognizing National D.A.R.E Day, which continued into the Obama Administration. The program even expanded to the U.K. in 1995.
While the efficacy of the original program was contested (and eventually discredited), D.A.R.E. certainly made an impact. There are few Americans who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s who don’t remember D.A.R.E. with a twinge of nostalgia. And the phrase “just say no” will forever be stamped into their skulls. D.A.R.E. also gave out super cool tshirts and swag. Look into the average 80s and 90s elementary and middle school yearbook and chances are, you’ll see kids donning the ubiquitous baggy black and red D.A.R.E. tshirts.
D.A.R.E. also released several PSAs over the years. The spots often featured celebrities, discussing how drugs aren’t cool, and telling kids to “just say no.” In this 1990 spot, actor Kirk Cameron of “Growing Pains,” talks about the uncoolness of doing drugs and how you don’t have to do anything you want to.
D.A.R.E. even teamed up with the Power Rangers in a “just say no” PSA: