LAURENS COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office has implemented a “new and improved” DARE program in schools, called “Keepin’ It Real.”

Courtney Snow, the sheriff’s office public information officer, explained the course is designed to teach children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. It also includes lessons about decision making, bullying and communication.

“Fifth grade is such an impressionable age, and they’re getting ready to go to middle school where decisions are tougher,” said Snow. “They are actually encountering these drugs in middle school.”

Snow said the previous DARE program became “outdated and ineffective.”

“It was more about drugs, identifying drugs and just saying no,” explained Snow. “Just saying no doesn’t work anymore. We’re much more interested in telling the children why we say no, what this is and how to avoid even being in the situation.”

The sheriff’s office has tailored the program to make it relatable to the students they are teaching.

“It uses real life scenarios,” said Snow. “We’re definitely talking about current drugs, current drug issues and relating it to problems in Laurens County.”

Firearms safety program

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office is also beginning to teach a firearms safety programs to students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“It explains what a firearm is, why we don’t touch firearms and what to do if we see one, especially on school grounds or at home,” said Snow.

Snow said the decision to teach this class came after students in the district brought a gun to school on two occasions last year.

“We are in Laurens County,” said Snow. “It’s a rural county. A lot of us have guns, and that’s okay. It’s important for children to know we don’t touch them, and they’re not toys.”

Snow said the sheriff’s office is in discussion with the Department of Natural Resources to potentially teach a firearms safety program in middle and high schools as well.