CREAM RIDGE, NJ – Say goodbye, New Jersey, to those police department “D.A.R.E. officers” the muscle cars plastered with D.A.R.E. graphics, the D.A.R.E. pens and stickers, the D.A.R.E. T-shirts. The Garden State chapter of the national Drug Abuse Resistance Education is out of business, according to documents seen by TAP into Roxbury.

The Cream Ridge based franchisee lost a legal battle with the California based parent D.A.R.E. organization and, after 25 years, it is pulling the plug. It also has to pay the Los Angeles organization almost $566,000.

“It is with a heavy heart that we write to advise that after 25 years of fulfilling our mission of educating New Jersey schoolchildren of the dangers of drug use, D.A.R.E. New Jersey has been forced to close its doors,” said the non-profit organization in a recent letter to police, town and school participants.

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In the letter, D.A.R.E. New Jersey blames its demise on the parent organization, contending the franchiser tried to force it to use a new curriculum called “keepin’ it Real.” It asserted “kiR” was “untested, unproven and has been rejected by the key law enforcement and educational organizations in New Jersey.”

Additionally, the New Jersey chapter contended the kiR curriculum “does not include marijuana and drugs other than alcohol and tobacco and does not meet the minimum standards that our educational authorities have mandated in New Jersey’s Core Curriculum Content Standards.”

The battle between the New Jersey chapter and the parent organization has been going on for several years. Two years ago, D.A.R.E. America pointed the finger at New Jersey, alleging the Garden State group’s decision to use a different curriculum, called “Too Good For Drugs,” or TGFD, not only violated the franchise agreement but is not a good choice when it comes to preventing drug abuse by young people.

“TGFD was specifically rejected by D.A.R.E. America when it chose kiR as D.A.R.E.’s new elementary school curriculum,” wrote D.A.R.E. America. “We contacted and held discussions with representatives of numerous educational programs and carefully analyzed each possible option, including TGFD.”

D.A.R.E. America said TGFD has “several flaws” including an inability to “withstand the high level of scrutiny placed on D.A.R.E. curriculums.” It also said TGFD “was not evidence-based; did not show positive behavioral outcomes; was antiquated and had not been significantly updated in many years; had an inferior delivery system and curriculum to D.A.R.E.’s then-current program; and did not meet the requirements or standards needed to partner with D.A.R.E.”

Back on the East Coast, D.A.R.E. New Jersey said similarly critical things about kiR, asserting the kiR middle school curriculum “has been rejected” by the state groups representing school administrators, teachers, school boards and police departments.

“Because we placed the welfare of New Jersey schoolchildren ahead of our allegiance to the D.A.R.E. Los Angeles franchiser, we do not have a curriculum to offer the 5th and 6th grade students who comprise the largest component of our program,” said the New Jersey chapter. “Without a curriculum, D.A.R.E. New Jersey cannot continue.”

U.S. District Court Judge James Otero has ordered D.A.R.E. New Jersey to pay D.A.R.E. America $565,850, putting a lid on the litigation and on D.A.R.E. New Jersey’s operations.

“However, all is not lost,” wrote D.A.R.E. New Jersey in its recent letter. “While it cannot be utilized under the D.A.R.E. banner, another organization has taken over our responsibility to serve NJ law enforcement efforts … Accordingly, we do not write to say goodbye. Rather, we write to say THANK YOU FOR YOUR MANY YEARS OF SUPPORT and to urge you to continue the mission that D.A.R.E. NJ championed for so many years, but that cannot be continued under the D.A.R.E. banner.”

D.A.R.E. America had a less-than-positive take on D.A.R.E. New Jersey’s talk of “another organization” doing the old D.A.R.E. work. “To make matters worse, in an attempt to displace D.A.R.E. America, D.A.R.E. New Jersey has created a competing drug prevention education organization called American Gold Shield, Inc. (“AGS”),” said the Los Angeles organization. “AGS is clearly run by - and the genesis of -D.A.R.E. New Jersey. Among other things, D.A.R.E. New Jersey and AGS share the same address.”

Indeed, both groups list 202 Davis Station Road, Cream Ridge, as their address. And, according tofindthecompany.com, D.A.R.E. New Jersey chairman and CEO Nick Demauro is the chief operating officer of AGS. He could not be reached for comment.