Campaign Against Drugs Beginning To Take Shape

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Washington--A little more than a week before President Bush was scheduled to release his national plan for fighting the drug war, 24 drug experts, politicians, and school officials met here to begin mapping out a plan for making the term "drug-free schools" a reality.

The National Commission on Drug-Free Schools, created last year by the same federal legislation that established the post of the nation's so-called "drug czar," had its first meeting Aug. 24. And Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, who chairs the panel with William J. Bennett, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, set the tone.

"Don't expect overnight miracles," he said.

Though much of the meeting was spent discussing obstacles--one of which was identified as tailoring programs to meet the varying patterns of youth drug use--Mr. Cavazos encouraged commission members to be innovative in their approach.

"Let's blue-sky this thing," the Secretary said.

The commission must make a report to the Congress by next fall.

Mr. Bennett, meanwhile, was awaiting the disclosure by President Bush of the dimensions of the national drug strategy he was charged by the Congress with preparing by Labor Day.

The former secretary of education submitted his plan to the President this summer. Mr. Bush was scheduled to unveil an amended version of it in a nationally televised address Sept. 5.

The plan reportedly calls for an increase in drug-education funding from $355 million to $392 million, a figure identical to the amount requested by Mr. Bush in his budget address last February.

Reports also indicate that the plan will require schools to create tougher anti-drug policies as a condition of receiving certain federal funds, and will call for the creation of a grant program to establish more alternative schools for students caught using drugs.

The plan would reportedly set as a goal reducing by one-half in the next 10 years the number of adolescents who say they have used cocaine during the previous month.

In an interview, Herbert D. Kleber, Mr. Bennett's deputy director for demand reduction, would not specify how much of an increase in drug-education funding was included in the plan.

"If we are going to put a lot more money in--and we are recommending a substantial increase--then along with that has to come greater accountability and greater evaluation," he said. (See interview excerpts on this page.)

Dr. Kleber acknowledged that the plan calls for schools to have stricter anti-drug policies as a precondition for receiving some federal funds. But he did not specify which programs would be affected.

"Yes, we do recommend that the ability to receive certain kinds of federal funds be conditioned on performance," he said. "We're not applying this to education alone. We're saying that across a spectrum of activities that receive federal funding, there needs to be greater accountability and evaluation."

When asked to specify the types of measurements that schools will be judged by, Dr. Kleber said they will be "hammered out by an appropriate task force between us and the Department of Education, with lots of input from schools across the country."

At the meeting of the drug-free schools panel, commission members agreed to divide themselves into two working groups, each handling a different set of issues. There was no ready agreement, however, on which drugs should be considered part of the commission's purview.

While most agreed that the final report should address the use of alcohol on school grounds, there was no consensus about the inclusion of tobacco.

Peter Bell, the executive director of the Institute on Black Chemical Abuse in Minneapolis, noted that while there is some evidence that tobacco may be a so-called "gateway" drug for some white youths who try illegal drugs, the same cannot be said for blacks.

Black youngsters, he said, are more likely to sell illegal drugs as a prelude to using them.

Mr. Bell also urged the commission to consider devising different strategies for dealing with students who merely have used drugs and those who abuse them.

A distinction in the degree of drug dependency must be made, he said, to come up with effective countermeasures.

Most commission members, however, agreed with the stance taken by the Education Department--that any use of drugs by youths is an abuse.

In addition to Mr. Bell, members of the commission include:

Lee P. Brown, chief of police, Houston; Senator Daniel R. Coats, Republican of Indiana; Senator Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi; Representative Michael DeWine, Republican of Ohio; Henry C. Gradillas, special consultant, California Department of Education; Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida; Lorraine E. Hale, executive director, Hale House Center Inc., New York City.

Richard Ham, chief of planning, evaluation, and program development, department of human reel10lsources, Carson City, Nev.; Paula Hawkins, former U.S. senator from Florida and president, Paula Hawkins & Associates Inc., Winter Park, Fla.; Representative Paul Henry, Republican of Michigan; Lloyd D. Johnston, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Elizabeth L. Karnes, Westside Community Schools, Omaha, Neb.; Camerino M. Lopez, principal of Garfield Elementary School, Phoenix, Ariz.

Representative Nicholas Mavroules, Democrat of Massachusetts; Elizabeth S. McConnell, U.S. Attorney, Middle District of Flori4da, Tampa, Fla.; George J. McKenna 3rd, superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District, Inglewood, Calif.; the Rev. Daniel M. O'Hare, executive director, Amen Inc., Newburgh, N.Y.; Thomas A. Shannon, executive director, National School Boards Association, Alexandria, Va.

Senator Richard C. Shelby, Democrat of Alabama; H. Wesley Smith, superintendent, Newberg Public Schools, Newberg, Ore.; Rosemary R. Thomson, Excel-link Consulting, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Manya C. Ungar, immediate past president, National pta, Scotch Plains, N.J.; Representative Pat Williams, Democrat of Montana.

Vol. 09, Issue 01

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