SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Despite the New Jersey chapter of D.A.R.E. ending, the program is alive and strong – and will continue as such – in South Plainfield. The South Plainfield Police Department-run program is part of D.A.R.E. America – not D.A.R.E. New Jersey (NJ) and is therefore unaffected by the Garden State franchise’s recent decision to pull the plug on the program after 25 years.

Earlier this year, Cream Ridge-based D.A.R.E. NJ lost a legal battle with the California-based parent D.A.R.E. America. According to court documents, D.A.R.E. NJ refused to implement the parent company’s new curriculum and, by doing so, violated its franchise agreement. As a result, the New Jersey chapter, which was ordered to pay the Lost Angeles-based franchiser almost $566,000, announced it would end the program.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there; just because D.A.R.E. New Jersey closed its doors doesn’t mean the program is gone,” said Detective Lloyd McNelly of South Plainfield’s Criminal Investigations Division. “We haven’t been using the D.A.R.E. New Jersey program for some time now. About a year ago, several of us were certified in the new curriculum just to be sure. As a result, we are ahead of the game and unaffected.”

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Legal issues between D.A.R.E. America and the New Jersey chapter began after the parent organization implemented new curriculum, replacing it with its ‘keepin’ it REAL’ (kiR) curriculum in 2012; REAL is an acronym for Refuse, Explain, Avoid and Leave. D.A.R.E. NJ, however, refused to use kiR, arguing that it was ‘untested,’ ‘unproven’ and that it didn’t “include marijuana and drugs other than alcohol and tobacco.” 

According to McNelly, KiR does in fact include a marijuana and drug component. “Nationwide, states are adopting their own new laws. As a result, there is a separate handout for each state,” he said.

In South Plainfield, the D.A.R.E. program is part of the police department’s Community Oriented Policing unit and the kiR curriculum is used as a supplement to regular health classes at Grant Elementary (5th grade) and Holy Savior Academy (5th and 6th grade). McNelly, who is certified for kindergarten through 8th grade, has personally been running the program for the past five years and will see his first class become sophomores in the fall.

“We have formed good relationships with the students,” he said. “On a personal level, programs like this are very important. They help the community.”

In addition to South Plainfield, the Piscataway and Plainfield police departments are also still participating in D.A.R.E. America.