Report Says E.D. Too Restrictive In Recognizing Drug-Free Schools

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WASHINGTON---The Education Department has unnecessarily limited its drug-free schools recognition program by only considering schools with strict "no use" approaches, the General Accounting Office concludes in a new report.

The report, conducted at the request of Representative Major R. Owens, Democrat of New York and chairman of the House Select Committee on Education, found that the department will not consider schools with "responsible use" approaches for its four-year-old recognition program.

To date, the department has recognized exemplary programs in 184 public and private schools.

Under a no-use program, students are told that any use of drugs, tobacco, or alcohol by minors is wrong and harmful. Responsible-use programs, while not condoning drug use, stress informed decisionmaking, or attempt to limit the riskiest forms of behavior, such as drinking and driving.

Probably the most well-known responsible-use program is Students Against Drunk Driving, which has chapters in 25,000 middle and high schools nationwide.

Research has not shown "the general superiority of one prevention approach over any other, nor have any evaluations isolated the effects of a no-use approach," the report said.

In its written response to the G.A.O. recommendation that it make a broader range of programs eligible for commendation, the E.D. said the criteria for the recognition program must be consistent with the DrugFree Schools and Communities Act, which it uses to fund the program.

The G.A.O. said it believes the act, which requires schools to certify that they are drug-free in order to receive federal funds, does not rule out the citation of responsible-use programs.--E.F.

Vol. 11, Issue 05, Page 28

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