E.D., White House Begin Campaign In War on Drugs

By James Crawford — September 17, 1986 6 min read

“Schools Without Drugs,” a 78-page compendium of information and advice on how to “slam the schoolhouse door” on drugs, was to be released Sunday by the Education Department to coincide with a nationwide address on the problem by the President and Mrs. Reagan.

“Because of drugs, our children are failing, suffering, and dying,” said Secretary of Education William J. Bennett in a statement prepared for the booklet’s release. “We have to get tough, and we have to do it now.”

One million copies have been printed and will be distributed free of charge to every public and private school in the country and to superintendents, parent groups, police departments, and elected officials.

Meanwhile, on other fronts of the antidrug offensive, the House last week voted 392-16 to spend $3 billion to $4 billion over the next three years to strengthen drug enforcement and education. The bipartisan bill (H R 5484) would authorize $350 million a year in grants to school districts to I support drug-abuse-prevention and counseling programs.

A similar proposal being advanced by Senate Democrats would allocate $150 million.

And in preparation for the Reagans’ speech, the White House was putting the finishing touches on its own legislative package, which was expected to contain $100 million in state block grants for antidrug programs in the schools, probably by shifting funds from other education accounts.

In heated debate on the proposal last week at a Domestic Policy Council meeting, which was closed to the press, Mr. Bennett took a hard line on punishment for federal employees found to be using drugs, according to an Administration source who asked not to be identified.

But the Secretary, while supporting the expansion of drug-testing in the federal work force, urged that prevention be the focus of educational efforts in the schools, the source said.

‘What Works’ Approach

The department’s new pamphlet is presented in the simple, concise format of “What Works,” its widely disseminated guide to effective teaching methods. In his introduction, Mr. Bennett describes “Schools Without Drugs” as “a practical synthesis of the most reliable and significant findings available on drug use by school-age youth.”

Recent studies show that “the drug plague has entered the schools across America, and it is seeping into lower and lower grades, even into elementary schools,” the Secretary said. “Use of some of the most harmful drugs is increasing.

“Drug use impairs memory, alertness, and achievement. Drugs erode the capacity of students to perform in school, to think and act responsibly,” he continued. “Drug use disrupts the entire school.

“The good news is that use of illegal drugs can be stopped,” Mr. Bennett argued. “Schools are uniquely situated to be part of the solution to student drug use. Children spend much of their time in school. Furthermore, schools, along with families and religious institutions, are major influences in transmitting ideals and standards of right and wrong.”

“Schools Without Drugs” features such practical information as “fact sheets” on the signs of drug use by children, “legal questions on search and seizure,” descriptions of various drugs and their effects, and “tips for selecting drug-prevention materials.” An appendix provides a detailed analysis of court rulings on school-disciplinary issues and a guide to resources on drug-abuse prevention.

Advice on Solutions

The pamphlet also profiles effective anti-drug programs at Northside High School in Atlanta; Anne Arundel County Schools in Maryland; Eastside High School in Paterson, N.J.; Samuel Gompers Vocational- Technical School in New York City; Greenway Middle School in Phoenix, Ariz.; and cooperative efforts between schools and police in Los Angeles and New York City.

The pamphlet makes a series of recommendations to parents, schools, students, and communities on “a plan for achieving schools without drugs.” (See excerpts on this page.)

Parents are counseled to teach their children to resist peer pressure to use drugs through “personal example"- which means “not using drugs themselves.

“Clear policies against drug use and consistent enforcement of those policies” are central to an effective effort by schools, the booklet adds. Joe Clark, the Paterson high-school principal, is cited for “establishing and enforcing strict penalties” for drug use, as exemplified by his slogan: “If you’re smoking or dealing, you’re out.”

Cooperative efforts between local police departments and the schools are also highly recommended.

The Education Department spent $440,000 to produce and print the publication and plans to provide it free to the public on request. It can be obtained by calling (toll-free) 1- 800-624-0100 or by writing to “Schools Without Drugs,” Pueblo, Colo. 81009.

House Action

The “omnibus drug act of 1986" reflected the work of 12 House committees and more than 16 hours of floor debate, as election-conscious representatives jockeyed to make their mark on the legislation.

The $1.05 billion approved for drug-abuse education over three years would dwarf the current federal effort, a $3-million-a-year program to train school drug counselors that now turns away many applicants.

This funding level, however, promises to be one of the bill’s most controversial aspects. The White House and the Republican-controlled Senate are expected to propose lesser amounts.

But Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, the California Democrat who is chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, argued for a strong commitment to preventive efforts in the schools.

“Frankly, it is not possible to operate a national program for less,” he said in a House floor speech. “Remember that this money is insignificant compared to the costs of drug abuse: ... We need to turn the heavy pressure [on students] to experiment with drugs into an attitude that says the ‘cool’ thing to do is not do drugs.”

Most of the $350 million in district grants, which would be administered by state education agencies, would pay for, among other things, counseling programs, the development of drug-abuse curricula, and training. Ten percent of the funds would be reserved for direct department grants to institutions of higher education.

In the program’s second and third years, districts would have to match 25 percent of their grants with cash, equipment, or in-kind services.

An amendment sponsored by Representative Steve Bartlett, Republican of Texas, which won easy approval, would require districts to use curriculum materials that stress the dangers of drugs. Some texts “present a neutral course” and even imply that “responsibility” use of illegal substances is an option, he said.

On a 355-to-54 vote, the House passed a proposal by Representative Ken Kramer, Republican of Colorado, that mandates a life sentence for adults convicted of distributing drugs in or near schools or to minors.

Senate Republicans have yet to advance a proposal.

The Democratic Working Group on Drugs and Substance Abuse, led by Senator Lawton Chiles of Florida, has proposed a package slightly different from the House-passed version.

In addition to grants to districts, the measure (S 2798) would earmark $25 million to beef up federally funded training centers for staff members in drug-abuse-prevention programs.

A version of this article appeared in the September 17, 1986 edition of Education Week as E.D., White House Begin Campaign In War on Drugs