Friday, May 19, 2006

Stop expansion of school searches

Stop Congress From Expanding School Searches

Students for Sensible Drug Policy is asking for your help to stop a bill that would further curtail the rights of students in public schools all across the country. The so-called “Student and Teacher Safety Act of 2006” (H.R. 5295) would make it easier for teachers and school administrators to search students’ lockers and bags for drugs and other contraband. SSDP needs your help to make sure that this bill never becomes law.

Currently, in order for a teacher to search a student’s locker they need to have “reasonable suspicion” that the student is in possession of illegal drugs. H.R. 5295 would change the standard needed for a search to “colorable suspicion,” a term that has been made up entirely for this bill. Essentially, a teacher would need nothing more than a hunch in order to search a student’s locker or possessions.

This bill is nothing more than another attack on the constitutional rights of young people by the federal government. Students should never have to check their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door.

Please take two minutes to send a letter to your member of Congress asking him or her to oppose H.R. 5295. SSDP has created a pre-written letter that you can easily send by visiting

And if you can afford it, please consider making a financial contribution – large or small – to SSDP’s efforts to beat back the government’s Drug War attacks on young people at

Thank you for taking action to stop this drastic bill. Please enter your e-mail address below so that SSDP can continue to keep you informed of our efforts to stop this dangerous piece of legislation from becoming law.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

DARE to get rid of DARE

The Los Angeles Times seems to have printed a special "Sensible Drug Policy Edition" today.

In addition to this great article on the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty, the Times printed this hard-hitting exposé of DARE and other failed "Just Say No" programs.
Anti-drug overdose?
Many school prevention programs don't help, scientists say, and may even do harm.
By Marnell Jameson, Special to The Times

LIKE millions of kids across America, ninth-grader Mariana Kouloumian was taught in elementary school not to drink or use drugs — ever. To her, the message seemed clear except for one hitch: It didn't square with what she saw in the real world, or even at home.

"When I told my parents what I learned in [school], that drinking was bad, they said they knew that, but that a drink once in a while was OK," Mariana says.

Today, at 14, the Los Angeles girl dismisses much of what she learned in the drug-education program, saying that when she's older she plans to follow the more moderate example set by her mother and father.

"My parents know how much alcohol they can handle. They only drink socially — and wouldn't drink and drive." Further, she credits her parents, not school lessons, with helping her turn down tobacco, alcohol and drugs — all of which she's been offered. "I learned what I know at home," she says. To her, the anti-drug program seemed out of touch.
All of us who went through the DARE program probably had similar experiences of realizing that abstinence-only messages just don't jive with reality. Some, like Mariana, are lucky enough to have the voice of reason coming from their parents. Others, however, are not so lucky.
Most drug-prevention programs don't work because they use scare tactics, Hanson says. "They tell kids things they will later find out aren't true, like alcohol is a gateway to drugs and will seduce you into trying more dangerous substances. Also, by saying all alcohol is bad, they send kids home thinking that if their parents have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with their pizza, they are abusing drugs. If a child's father happens to tend bar, they come home and ask why he's a drug dealer. Then what happens when the child sees the off-duty DARE officer having a beer at the local bowling alley?"


Some researchers and scientists worry about the harm some programs may be doing to kids. A 1998 Illinois study, for example, found that DARE inadvertently encouraged a few students to try drugs.


"The harm is that kids don't need these messages yet, and by making them too simplistic, they will dismiss them when they're older and do need this message," Robertson says. She adds that these programs make kids who have never considered using drugs see themselves as potential drug users.
About two years ago, I went to the DARE National Conference to gather information about the program and to represent the DARE Generation. I spoke with countless law enforcement officers who, while genuinely concerned about drug abuse, would refuse to admit that an abstinence-only scare-tactic based program simply did nothing to prevent drug abuse. Steve West, a researcher who found the DARE program to be ineffective, says it best:
"We weren't saying the program wasn't well intentioned," says West, a professor of rehabilitation counseling. "Just that as a prevention effort, it was a huge waste of time and money. There are better programs."
What better programs, you ask? Here's one off the top of my head.

Oh, and this article appeared in the HEALTH section of the Times. Looks like people are starting to get the picture that drug abuse is a public health problem, and not a criminal justice problem.

Read the rest of the article here.

SSDP spreads the word in the mainstream press

The Los Angeles Times has a story on the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty and SSDP's recently released state-by-state report. The piece opens with the ordeal Marisa Garcia had to go through after being convicted of a minor drug offense.

After Marisa Garcia was busted for possessing a pipe with marijuana residue, she pleaded guilty, paid a $415 fine and thought she had paid her debt to society.

She was wrong: When she applied for federal financial aid to attend Cal State Fullerton, she learned she was ineligible because of the misdemeanor conviction.

"I was thinking I made this horrible mistake which is going to ruin my access to education," said Garcia, 25, of Santa Fe Springs. The sociology major's mother is refinancing her home mortgage to help pay Garcia's fees . "You've already been punished and now you get punished twice … and I don't think that punishment is benefiting anyone," Garcia said.

She is among hundreds of thousands of students denied federal student aid or who didn't apply for it because drug convictions made them ineligible under a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act intended to deter student drug use.
The piece also quotes SSDP, the ACLU, and Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), chief sponsor of the Removing Impediments to Students' Education (RISE) Act, which would fully repeal the Aid Elimination Penalty.
"Students are absolutely outraged that our access to education is being lost as collateral damage in the drug war," said Tom Angell of the Washington, D.C.-based Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which has lobbied Congress to repeal the measure and is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education.


"It's kind of symptomatic of people treating drugs in an excessive, almost histrionic fashion, where drugs are treated worse than murder and rape," Frank said. "Why single drugs out as worse? Why penalize poor people as opposed to rich people?"


"This law doesn't deter drug use. It deters education," said Adam Wolf, an attorney with the ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project in Santa Cruz. "Funding education is one of the smartest uses of tax dollars. If students stay in college, they have a far greater chance of becoming productive, tax-paying members of society."
If you appreciate SSDP's eforts to spread the word about this disastrous legislation, please make a donation today.