Bush Drug Plan: School Policies Required for Aid

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Washington--Pledging to "stop illegal drug use before it starts," President Bush last week unveiled a national strategy for fighting drugs that will require schools to adopt tough anti-drug policies as a prerequisite for receiving any federal funds.

"Every school, every college and university--and every workplace--must adopt tough but fair policies about drug use by students and employees," Mr. Bush said in his nationally televised address on Sept. 5. ''Those that will not adopt such policies will not get federal funds. Period."

The $7.9-billion plan, which places an emphasis on law-enforcement measures and on aid to South American countries fighting drug producers, contains few new initiatives for schools.

In addition to requiring that schools adopt tough anti-drug policies and drug-prevention programs, the plan calls on the Education Department to use existing funds to encourage the development of model alternative schools for youths with drug problems.

The drug-education plan--developed by William J. Bennett, the nation's so-called "drug czar" and former Secretary of Education--calls for an increase in federal funding from $355 million this fiscal year to $392 million in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The proposed increase is identical to the amount requested by Mr. Bush in his budget address last February. (See Education Week, Sept. 6, 1989.)

In his speech, Mr. Bush also said he "would take the anti-drug message to the classrooms of America in a special television address, one that I hope will reach every school, every young American."

Late last week, a White House spokesman said the President will talk about "drugs, education, and children" in a Sept. 12 address to be broadcast on Cable News Network and CBS at 12:15 P.M.

Politicians and some educators were quick to criticize Mr. Bush's plan last week for not providing enough money for drug education.

The 'Only Vaccine'

In a televised response, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, said current funding shortfalls mean that only half of all schoolchildren receive drug education.

"Drug education is the only vaccine we have against drug abuse among the young," he said. "Can you imagine vaccinating only 50 percent of America's children against polio or smallpox?"

Richard Kruse, the associate director of government relations at the National Association of Secondary School Principals, echoed the sentiment. "The federal government would do us a disservice to place this high on the national agenda and spend state and local dollars to fund it," he said.

But, he added: "The way I see it, Bush's proposal is not a ceiling. It is his first statement. It's a starting point in the Bush Administration."

The plan, which the 1988 omnibus drug bill required Mr. Bush to submit to the Congress by last week, also sets several goals.

Within the next two years, the plan states, the nation must work to reduce by 10 percent the number of teenagers reporting any use of an illegal drug during the previous month, and cut by 20 percent the number of youths reporting any use of cocaine during the previous month. In addition, the plan calls for drug use reported by teenagers for the previous month to be reduced by half within the next 10 years.

The plan also recommends that:

  • States adopt "drug-free school" laws.
  • Additional research be conducted on effective prevention strategies for disadvantaged, at-risk youths.
  • States establish military-style boot-camps, postpone driver's-license eligibility, and require weekends of community service for youthful drug offenders.

Tough Policies

Under the plan, the Administration will propose amendments to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to require states and local education agencies to adopt anti-drug programs and policies, including user sanctions, as a condition for receiving federal funds.

Specifically, the plan states, schools should include "refusal-skills training" in their drug-education programs because such training takes a "firm moral stand that using drugs is wrong."

The plan also suggests that schools adopt tough anti-drug policies similar to those implemented in Anne Arundel County, Md.

In that district, a student caught selling or distributing drugs is ex8pelled.

When a student is caught using or possessing drugs, both his parents and the police are called, and the student is suspended from school for one to five days. The student is not allowed to return until he is willing to undergo counseling and participate in an after-school drug program.

"We cannot teach them that drugs are wrong and harmful," the report states, "if we fail to follow up our teaching with real consequences for those who use them."

Daniel Schechter, an aide to Mr. Bennett, said discussions are continuing over who should ensure that districts' drug programs and policies are sufficiently stringent before allowing the release of federal funds. One idea being considered by officials in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which was created by the 1988 bill, he said, is to give the states that responsibility.

In addition, he said, officials are considering tying all federal money funneled to school districts to approval of the anti-drug programs and policies. Such a provision would not only affect education funds, he said, but also money for such programs as school breakfasts and lunches.

While the Anne Arundel policy is "not necessarily one that everyone would have to copy cat," Mr. Schechter said, all acceptable policies would have to have a "disciplinary aspect" and be "tough, firm, but fair to students, faculty, and staff."

Currently, only schools that apply for federal anti-drug funds are required to have anti-drug policies that target students. The 1988 drug bill also required all recipients of federal funds, including schools, to have policies forbidding drugs in the workplace and to punish employees who violate the policies. (See Education Week, Nov. 11, 1988.)

Dick W. Hays, the department's director of drug-abuse prevention and oversight, said it's his belief that many schools' policies "need further work and development."

"It's one thing to have a policy," he said. "But it's another thing to make it stick."

Mr. Hays also said the department will probably dip into discretionary monies allocated by the federal drug law to pay for between 5 and 20 alternative-school programs at a cost of about $100,000 to $200,000 each.

'Get the Drug Pushers Out'

Most educators said in interviews last week that they did not believe that Mr. Bush's proposal to require anti-drug policies would pose a problem because many schools already have such policies in place.

While most said they agreed that school policies should be clear and firm, some voiced concern over the prospect of federal authorities' mandating that certain provisions be included in their codes.

"As long as local school districts are able to administer [a policy] based on local community values, it will work out a lot better," said Edward R. Kealy, the director of federal relations for the National School Boards Association.

And Carnie Hayes, director of federal-state relations for the Council of Chief State School Officers, noted, "Sanctions can be anything from being talked to by the principal to being expelled from school."

Karen Pittman, director of the educational-improvement and adolescent-pregnancy-prevention division of the Children's Defense Fund, said she was concerned that some schools would enact tough policies but would not allow students who are expelled an opportunity to return to school.

She said educators will have to consider carefully the punitive nature of sanctions levied against students who sell or carry drugs on school grounds. For example, she said, because more and more middle-schools students are becoming involved in the drug trade, schools may find themselves permanently barring students of increasingly younger ages.

Although some educators said the plan should have earmarked more money for education, others said its emphasis on law enforcement was correct.

"If you want to prevent drug use among high-risk kids, get the drug pushers out their neighborhoods," said Lee I. Dogoloff, executive director of the American Council for Drug Education.

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