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Start Drug Education Early, Jackson Tells Senate Panel

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WASHINGTON--The federal government should support efforts to educate children about the dangers of drug abuse "beginning at the earliest ages,'' the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson told a Senate panel last week.

The Democratic Presidential candidate's testimony was the highlight of the hearing before the Labor and Human Resources Committee. The panel held the session in preparation for drafting its section of an omnibus anti-drug bill that is moving its way through the Congress. The House leadership planned to unveil a comprehensive drug plan this week.

The election-year measure--a sequel to the 1986 bill that created the Drug-Free Schools and Communities program--will be an amalgam of provisions produced by numerous committees with jurisdiction over different aspects of the drug problem.

Members of the education panel hinted at the hearing that their contribution to the bill would include education efforts targeted at young children, a recommendation endorsed by Mr. Jackson and several other witnesses.

The bill also is expected to include new penalties for drug sellers and users, increase funding for interdiction efforts, and possibly create the new post of federal "drug czar.''

House banking and tax committees have already approved measures that would make it harder for drug dealers to "launder'' their profits through banks.

Other measures under discussion on Capitol Hill and in the Administration include denying student aid and driver's licenses to convicted drug users, and cutting off federal aid to schools and colleges that do not deal harshly with students who are caught with drugs. (See Education Week, June 15, 1988.)

"Children who have received adequate support from the very earliest stages of life--from early nutrition to preschool education--are less likely to fall into drug dependency,'' Mr. Jackson told members of the Senate education panel.

Other witnesses focused on the content of successful drug-education programs, and urged the senators to give educators more guidance in selecting drug-prevention programs.

They said successful programs stimulate peer pressure against drug use; teach decision-making skills and raise students' self-esteem; attempt to educate parents about drugs and involve them in the program; discuss alternatives to drug use; and include procedures for referring the most "at risk'' students for intensive counseling.--J.M.

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