Thursday, March 02, 2006

SSDP High Schoolers Rally Against Drug Testing

Arguably the most disturbing trend in the war on drugs when it comes to young people is the expansion of random suspicionless drug testing of high school students. While most high school students oppose the humiliating practice of having to pee in a cup in front of their teachers, many feel powerless to take on the powers that be and actually do something to stop it. Those students can look to students at the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago for inspiration.

An SSDP chapter at Francis Parker, led by Jeanne Barr, is leading a day of action on Friday, March 3 to protest a bill in the Illinois Legislature that would permit public high schools to implement random student drug testing of all students in extra curricular activities. The students are taking a courageous stand by rallying against this bill, and at SSDP we hope other high school students around the country will take notice and organize similar actions.

Below is a copy of a press release about the action.

Students Rally Against HB3554
and Random Suspicionless Student Drug Testing

WHAT: Rally against HB3554
WHO: Students for Sensible Drug Policy from The Francis W. Parker School
WHEN: Friday, March 3, 2006 11:30 AM
WHERE: The Water Tower

HB3554, which is currently before the general assembly, is designed to permit schools to require students involved in school-sponsored and school-supported athletic or extra-curricular activities to submit to random, suspicionless drug testing. Many schools around the country have already implemented these tests. These are specifically urine tests that are designed to detect marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and PCP. However, they do not detect alcohol nor tobacco, the most commonly used drugs. The least expensive tests cost from $10 to $30 per student tested.

Studies show that these tests are expensive, ineffective, and a gross misallocation of scarce resources. Also, the tests endorse the erosion of certain constitutional rights and American values. The tests are dangerous in that they may lead students to use more hazardous drugs that are less detectable by conventional drug tests. These tests frequently provide false positives and detract from important educational funds. Additionally, and perhaps most poignantly, they are proven to have no positive effect in deterring any drug use among students.

Students of Francis W. Parker, a high school located in Lincoln Park, will be sharing this important information with the public on March 3, 2006. Their mission is to educate Chicago’s citizens about the current issue before the general assembly in Springfield and to encourage those who disagree with the bill to protest it by contacting their State Senator Kimberly Lightford, chair of the Senate Education Committee.

SSDP, or Students for Sensible Drug Policy, is an organization dedicated to involving students in the political process and providing education on the Drug War.

For more information, please contact Jeanne Barr at 773-213-2025 or

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Snitch on a classmate, win a prize!

With thousands of high schools implementing random drug testing and canine drug search programs across the country, I thought that school boards and administrators couldn't possibly stoop any lower in their willingness to sell out students to the Drug War.

I was wrong.

Today I stumbled across this January story about a new program in Fernandina Beach, Florida that pays high school students to spy on their fellow classmates. That's right folks, for a hefty $100 per snitch, students are being bribed into tattling on others who bring drugs to school.
Spearheaded by the Nassau Alcohol, Crime and Drug Abatement Coalition, the program has tentatively been titled "Safe Schools," and it's planned to start in every high school and middle school in Nassau County in August if approved by members of the Nassau County School Board.

"This program empowers the child to create a safe environment for themselves," said Susan Woodford, vice-president of NACDAC.
A safe environment, Sue? So, when a student rats out his classmate, and then tells a few friends about the iPod shuffle he bought with his reward, you're telling me that he just created a "safe environment" for himself?

Get real. In most places, rats get severely roughed up. In some places, they get shot.

Apparently, this isn't the only school district that has allowed the Drug War to subcontract students as intelligence gatherers.
Woodford said the program is modeled after similar programs in other school systems.

"We've seen other reward systems," she said. "There is the 'be safe' hotline (already in Nassau County schools), but kids don't seem to utilize that."
It seems like an appropriate time for the upcoming release of Richard Linklater's science fiction flick, A Scanner Darkly. The film, based after the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, imagines a future in which two out of every ten people are hired to spy on the rest, largely as part of the War on Drugs.

FUN FACT: In 1898, a man named Morgan Robertson wrote a book named Futility about an enormous British passenger liner, which, deemed to be unsinkable, departs on an April voyage, hits an iceberg and sinks in the North Atlantic, killing most passengers aboard due to an insufficient number of life boats. Futility was published 14 years before the Titanic sank under incredibly similar circumstances. The name of the doomed passenger liner in Robertson's book? The Titan.

I sincerely hope that A Scanner Darkly does not become our generation's Futility.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Retreat Ruminations

Having just returned from the SSDP Strategic Planning Retreat, I feel especially honored to be leading such an amazing group of activists. Throughout the weekend I was constantly impressed by the thoughtfulness, intelligence, and dedication shown by everyone involved in this organization. All of the board, staff, and chapter members in attendance had strong opinions on the direction they would like to see the organization take and projects we should work on. Yet while passions sometimes flared, everyone maintained respect for their fellow activists and their opinions.

One of the issues that everyone agreed on was the need for better communications systems between the SSDP chapters and the SSDP national office, and between the SSDP chapters themselves. Our current Talk List is clearly outdated, and we will be working to utilize new technologies and new approaches to communication. Everyone involved in an SSDP chapter shares similar goals and aspirations. We need to find a better way to keep everyone connected and feeling like they are part of a nationwide movement with like-minded students working on similar issues around the country.

While we did not leave the retreat with a complete strategic plan for the organization, we did identify a number of issues that are important to the organization’s stakeholders. In the coming year, SSDP will be designing new projects for chapters to work on. These will include projects focusing on student drug testing, schools not prisons, the ONDCP media campaign, Latin America, and expanding the Campus Change Campaign. We will also be encouraging SSDP chapters to get involved in the upcoming Congressional elections, in particular attempting to get our values and issues injected into Congressional races.

The next few months are going to be a period of intense work and restructuring for SSDP. We will be working at the national office to develop these new projects and communications systems. Meanwhile, I will be working directly with the chairman of the board of directors to develop a strategic plan for SSDP to help chart our course for the coming years.

I was especially happy that some of our chapter leaders were able to make it to the retreat this past weekend. Input from our chapters is critical for us at the national office. I strongly encourage our chapters leaders to call or e-mail me any time you have a comment, question, or suggestion about SSDP. In particular, if you have suggestions for ways that we can all better communicate with one another, or ideas about projects you are working on, please e-mail me at

This organization is going to be at the heart of major reforms in the war on drugs over the next few years. I hope you will join us in our coming successes.