Thomasville D.A.R.E. Officer still needs funding - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Thomasville D.A.R.E. Officer still needs funding

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September 12, 2006

Thomasville-  The Thomasville Police Department had requested $46,991 dollars to keep their D.A.R.E. officer teaching drug prevention in the city's elementary schools.

Tuesday Thomas County Commissioners agreed to pay just 68.9 percent of that bill and only for this year. The Thomasville Police Chief appreciates the money, but said it endangers the much needed program's future.

Officer Penny Hembree's lesson to students at Harper Elementary is just as important as math or science.

"Me being here in the school is just helping them realize, I'm just a real person and I'm here to help them and I'm here to keep them safe and I go into the classrooms a lot and teach them about different safety aspects," said Officer Penny Hembree, Thomasville D.A.R.E Officer.

Hembree also teaches fifth graders how to say no to drugs and other dangers, but recently it's her job that's been in danger. Thomas County Commissioners finally agreed to approve only a percentage of Hembree's salary.

"I can't have a D.A.R.E. Officer only 68.9 percent of the time, it's 100 percent or nothing at all, and we were already struggling with how we're going to raise the other 25 percent when we heard that they had agreed to 75 percent of the request," said Chief David Huckstep, Thomasville Police.

It will also only pay the salary this year. The funds to pay D.A.R.E. Officers come from fines ordered on drug offenders. The city schools says as long as that money is collected their request for D.A.R.E. funds will continue.

"That legislation which designates those fines to be used for educational programs, drug education programs will still be there, and as long as that law is on the books we intend to make that request annually," said Sabrina Everett, Thomasville Superintendent.

In hopes that Officer Hembree's D.A.R.E. classes will continue.

"It teaches them about the drugs, it teaches them about making healthy choices and really as long as they can make healthy choices they'll stay away from the drugs and that's what the D.A.R.E. program is all about making the right decisions," said Hembree.

Right decisions that will keep Thomasville's kids away from drugs.

Both the city police department and the city schools say they'll make the necessary cuts to come up with the additional money for Officer Hembree's salary. The Thomas County D.A.R.E. Officer's salary comes 100 percent from the commissioner's drug fine collections.

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