‘Drug Czar’ Nominee Tells Panel Of Need for Tough School Efforts

March 08, 1989 2 min read

Washington--At Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week on his nomination to be director of federal drug-control policy, William J. Bennett affirmed his support for tough anti-drug efforts in schools.

“There is a lot we can accomplish with education,” he said, but declined to make any commitments on his priorities as the first “drug czar.”

The primary order of business, he said, is to study the problem and draft an “honest and comprehensive” strategy for attacking it. The 1988 law that created the position requires him to submit a plan within six months.

“Schools Without Drugs,” which he published while he was secretary of education, represents his stand on drug education, Mr. Bennett said, adding that such efforts must include firm rules and “an example set by the adults in the school.”

He also said he stood by a series of memoranda that he had written to other Reagan Administration officials. One proposed making drug-prevention efforts a condition of receiving federal education funds.

School programs should include an assessment of drug use by students and staff, and “policies that would require firing staff and expelling or moving to a reform school those students caught selling drugs or using them repeatedly,” he wrote last year.

Emphasizing that he is “sensitive to the Constitution,” Mr. Bennett also argued, however, that abuse4can be fought without unacceptably intrusive measures. “Unless there is a compelling reason to test every school kid in America [for drugs], I won’t support it,” he said.

Mr. Bennett was praised by most senators and is expected to be confirmed easily.

But “winning the drug war will take more than stern lectures” and rhetoric, warned Howard M. Metzenbaum, Democrat of Ohio.

Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois, said Mr. Bennett’s record at ed, where he alienated much of the education community, did not inspire confidence in his ability to work with other anti-drug agencies.

The two senators also faulted Mr. Bennett for a 1987 proposal to cut drug-education funds and for his refusal to set affirmative-action goals.

Those themes were echoed in testimony by Cynthia L. Warger of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and two officials of the League of United Latin American Citizens. They accused Mr. Bennett of having been insensitive to minority concerns and said he would not work well with the groups most affected by drugs.

Mr. Bennett said he opposed quotas but had a good record of hiring minorities. His ability to lead should not be judged by his relations with the education establishment, he added.

While declining to “dismantle my bully pulpit, don a green eyeshade, and push some numbers,” he promised to stress management and diplomacy over speeches.--jm

A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 1989 edition of Education Week as ‘Drug Czar’ Nominee Tells Panel Of Need for Tough School Efforts