There are many forms of drug education in American schools. Today the most commonly used drug education program is Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), which operates in about 80 percent of American school districts. Hundreds of other programs designed to decrease illicit drug use also exist, some of them proven effective by vigorous, long-term research. There is no federal requirement that forces states to use DARE; however, governors are mandated to use funds toward the Law Enforcement Education Partnership (LEEP), effectively funding DARE and other drug education programs. Recent federal activity suggests that there is a push to make drug use reduction education a federal responsibility. This entry looks at drug education programs and research on their effectiveness.
The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (SDFSCA) of 1994 provided federal funding for formula grants to state agencies to be used on programs intended to decrease drug use and violence. This funding was intended to serve several functions, including programs, professional training and development, targeted resources for high drug areas, and safe passage of students from school to home. The SDFSCA was recently reauthorized through the No Child Left Behind Act, part A of Title IV. Currently, 20 percent of state SDFSCA funding goes to the governor to distribute through competitive grants, and 93 percent of all funds granted to state educational agencies must go directly to local educational agencies to use in drug prevention programs. Federal grants may also be obtained by local school administrators, nonprofit organizations, or partnerships designed to decrease drug abuse or violence that comply with the Principles of Effectiveness outlined by the federal government. The Principles of Effectiveness include needs assessment, measurable objectives/performance measures, effective scientifically based programs, program evaluation, and parent involvement.
DARE programs are generally focused on elementary school students, even though research suggests that there is no significant difference in future drug use between those who had DARE in elementary schools and those who did not. DARE is a nonprofit organization that receives funding and assistance from the Departments of Justice and Education, federal and local grants, state budgets, donations from organizations, “sin” taxes, drug recovery and forfeitures, and local law enforcement. It is a network of law-enforcement officials, school leaders, and grassroots organizations that focuses on providing information about drugs and mentoring students. DARE can be found in foreign countries as well.
Hundreds of drug education programs have recently been evaluated by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (HHS). Only a handful have been found effective, including ones that focus on life skills, increasing protective factors, resisting prodrug pressures, focusing on family factors, and providing community-based programs that utilize mass media, parent education, and health policy programming. According to DARE, it is currently going through a revision in order to utilize the most effective means of educating and preventing illicit drug use among youth.
While drug education has been undergoing reviews and changes, President George W. Bush has poured money into random drug testing of America’s school children. This is a million-dollar industry, and its practices bring up questions about students’ right to privacy and confidentiality. Scare tactics, like random drug testing, are often used to deter students from using drugs. Proponents of drug testing in schools argue that random drug testing will allow drug-abusing students to receive treatment that they would otherwise not receive. Opponents claim that it is a violation of First Amendment rights.
In addition to drug education partnerships like DARE, some schools provide drug education in health or science classes. Other schools do not provide any form of drug education. The controversy behind drug education’s effectiveness is currently a major factor behind the evaluation of its success in decreasing drug use among American students. Whether or not the programs are found successful, many of them will continue to reap the benefits of the billion-dollar industry of drug education.
- Rowe, T. (2006). Federal narcotics laws and the war on drugs: Money down a rat hole. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
- S. General Accounting Office. (1997, March 14). Drug control: Observations on elements of the federal drug control strategy. Report to congressional requesters (GAO/GGD-97-42). Washington, DC: Author.
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