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Press Release

HCSO Hosts Inaugural DARE Program Graduation at Loftis Middle School


Hamilton County, TN – Earlier this morning, Sheriff Austin Garrett and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Deputy Unit, in conjunction with the administration of Loftis Middle School, hosted the school’s inaugural DARE graduation ceremony for students who recently completed the program.

This graduation class signifies a significant expansion of the HCSO DARE Program to a third school in the HCDE system. The HCSO DARE Program is in its second academic year across the county since being brought back to our community by Sheriff Austin Garrett in 2023 after more than two decades. Approximately 200 Loftis Middle School students graduated this year’s inaugural program. To date, since the HCSO DARE Program was re-instituted in the Fall of 2022, we have had approximately 430 students graduate the Program.

DARE was originally founded in 1983 and has proven so successful that it has been implemented in thousands of schools throughout the United States and many other countries. It is a law enforcement led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives. The modern national DARE Program teaches millions of children the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs and gangs, as well as lead lives free from substance abuse and violence. There is also a mental health component incorporated into the program.  

“As part of my vision as Sheriff, I am pleased to see this program, now in its second year in our public schools, expanded to Loftis Middle School. My administration understands the value of this safety program and the importance it plays in not only reducing drug addiction in children, but the many other important lessons and values it teaches our young people. With the unprecedented number of overdose deaths we are seeing across our state and our nation, along with the increase in juvenile violence, there could not be a more important time to teach the DARE Program in our local schools. We must give our young people the tools they need to educate themselves about the dangers of illegal and prescription drug abuse and avoiding peer pressure by promoting respectful conduct, civility, and behavior,” stated Sheriff Austin Garrett.

To be a DARE Instructor, potential candidates are vetted by DARE mentors responsible for training new law enforcement personnel. The candidate must also be a POST certified, uniformed law enforcement officer with at least two or more years of service and must successfully complete a rigorous 80-hour training course conducted by mentors with a significant number of years of classroom experience, as well as university-level educators from colleges of education. This coursework does not include the many additional hours of study and after-hours work required to test for the certification.   

The HCSO would like to thank the administration and staff at Loftis Middle School for their support in making this program possible for students. We would also like to thank Mayor David Howell and City Manager Kirsten Ert Acuff for being present to support the graduates on behalf of the City of Lakesite, Tennessee.

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Phone: (423) 209-7000