In the three weeks since Stratford High School students were held at gunpoint in an ill-conceived drug raid, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the Drug Policy Alliance have teamed up to educate Goose Creek parents about a strategy that Principal George McCrackin did not consider--rational and honest drug education.
During the November 5 raid, fourteen police officers entered Stratford High School at the request of Principal McCrackin and detained 107 students at gunpoint. Students were ordered to lie on the ground and submit to an extensive search involving drug-sniffing dogs. No drugs were found.
"When we were in grade school, they told us to 'Just Say No' to drugs, and that was it. Now, in high school, the kind of drug education we get is guns pointed at our heads," said Dan Goldman, a student who went through the D.A.R.E. program and is now an SSDP board member.
In the past two weeks, SSDP has distributed hundreds of copies of the Alliance's Safety First to Goose Creek parents. The 17-page booklet is designed to educate parents about honest, science-based drug education. Safety First recognizes that though abstinence is preferred, parents need to let their teens know that they care most about their health. Examples of honest drug education from Safety First:
Designated Drivers - When attention was drawn to the increasing numbers of teenagers dying in drunk-driving accidents, responsible drinking programs promoted the concept of "designated drivers," which is credited with saving thousands of lives. ...;These comprehensive prevention strategies provide strong models for restructuring our drug education efforts.
Don't Lie - A common belief among many educators, policy makers and parents is that if teenagers simply believe that drug experimentation is dangerous, they will abstain. As a result, many prevention programs include exaggerated risk and danger messages. ...;A frightening ramification of imparting misinformation is that...;teenagers will ignore our warnings completely and put themselves in real danger.
After-School Programs - A voluntary, after-school drop-in program for middle and high school students who want to talk freely, openly and anonymously about drugs could also be a valuable resource. A drug and alcohol expert can be available for one to three hours in the same room each week, for example.
Be Available - Perhaps most important, teenagers need to trust that the important adults in their lives will provide help, if they need it. They need to know we will pick them up if they need transportation; that they can talk to us if they're frightened, depressed or ambivalent. Our greatest challenge is to listen and help without excessive admonishment, which will certainly drive our teenagers away.
"Instead of creating more danger by sending armed troops into schools, let's stop assuming students are guilty and instead focus on actually making teens safer by opening up an honest, open dialogue between students, teachers, and parents," said Safety First project director and parent Marsha Rosenbaum.
Parents of students terrorized in the violent drug raid in South Carolina have had regular meetings to voice their concern that such violent scare tactics do not make their children safer or address teen drug use. Many parents were outraged by the raid, and some have filed complaints on behalf of their children, while others are demanding Principal McCrackin's resignation. A few parents are considering moving their children to different high schools.
Written in 1999, over 85,000 copies of Safety First have been distributed around the world. Safety First has gone to parent and teacher groups, law enforcement officers, students, public health professionals and others. The booklet was endorsed by the California state PTA and has now been distributed to all PTA school districts in California.
In addition to distributing Safety First, SSDP has also educated students about their civil liberties and passed out dozens of t-shirts bearing the full text of the fourth amendment, the law that protects citizens from search without probable cause.
"This drug raid is a sobering example of how the war on drugs causes students' rights to be stripped away," said Goose Creek native and SSDP member Ian Mance. "Every day, students in this country have to prove themselves to be drug-free by submitting to urine tests and random searches."
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Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a national organization with over 200 college and high school chapters, is committed to providing education on harms caused by the war on drugs, working to involve youth in the political process, and promoting an open, honest, and rational discussion of alternative solutions to our nation's drug problems.
The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs and promote new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights. The Alliance, headquartered in New York City, maintains offices in California, Washington, DC, and New Mexico.
Copies of Safety First are available by visiting www.safety1st.org or calling Tony Newman at (212) 613-8026.