About 20 police officers from throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin spent the morning at district elementary schools on Oct. 12, including six at Birch Grove School for the Arts and Elm Creek Elementary School, where they completed their final training to become Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) educators.
At Birch Grove, officers spent time with grades 1-5, practicing their lesson plans in classrooms with more experienced officers assisting. At Elm Creek, six different Minnesota agencies worked with students in second, fourth and fifth grades.
The training day gave officers hands-on experience of teaching in a classroom at the end of their two weeks of training, with all the fun and challenges that a room full of students can provide.
Jennifer Foster, a D.A.R.E. officer with the Brooklyn Park Police Department who works with the district’s Brooklyn Park-area schools, said this is the first year new D.A.R.E. officers have completed their training at the school. Foster said some of the trainees are school resource officers (SROs) back in their home cities, and some are acting as liaisons between their local police departments and area schools.
Whether as a liaison or a SRO, Foster said the ability for students and officers to form positive relationships early is critical.
“I am a true believer in D.A.R.E. and the SRO program,” she said. “There have been so many times it has benefited us officers out on the street. It creates a connection there and an ability to start that conversation with kids.”