The Drug-Free Student Aid Provision Educational Campaign
The Drug-Free Student Aid Provision, which was amended to the Higher Education Act of 1998, is an unprecedented law blocking educational access to tens of thousands of students. Students for Sensible Drug Policy has been educating students and the public about the details and impact of this counterproductive and discriminatory legislation since its creation. At the campus level, SSDP chapters are educating their student bodies by persuading student government leaders to endorse a resolution calling on Congress to repeal the Drug-Free Student Aid Provision. As of today, 105 student governments and 5 multi-campus organizations have endorsed the resolution. In some cases, SSDP members have convinced their schools to create scholarship and loan programs to assist those students who are being denied federal aid as a result of the provision. The most recent one to do so was Yale.
Our 2004 agenda for this educational campaign focuses on continued efforts by local chapters to get their student government to endorse the opposition resolution. In addition, local chapters are encouraged to gather the endorsements of college and university presidents and administrators. We are also working to increase the number of on-campus educational programs, including speakers’ series, tabling, and flyering. At the legislative level, our agenda includes having our chapters lobby members of Congress in support of H.R. 786, a bill to overturn the drug provision and restore educational opportunities for all students in need. The SSDP national office will also expand our networking efforts, including our listserv, web pages, and educational brochures. We will solidify the HEA component of our speakers’ series, educate the public through targeted media hits and advertisements, and urge Congress to repeal the Drug-Free Student Aid Provision.
Read more about the issues of NORML in this article here.
Replacing Zero Tolerance with Harm Reduction
The interrelated issues of “just say no”-only drug education and punitive “zero tolerance” policies toward young people for drug and other infractions represent an entrenched public policy problem as well as an opportunity to awaken students at the college, high school and junior high school level, as well as educators, administrators and parents, to some of the most insidious consequences of the war on drugs. We are embarking on a multi-year campaign on these issues that starts with a few partial but far-reaching reforms, and which builds in subsequent years to take on increasingly ambitious goals.
Initially our chapters will be seeking to:
(1) eliminate the discrepancy between how alcohol and other drugs are handled in college alcohol and drug centers or programs, including getting names such as “substance and alcohol center” or “drug and alcohol center” changed to simply refer to “drugs” or “substances”; and
(2) encourage schools to handle substance issues non-punitively rather than resorting to their judicial system.
Because language in the 1989 Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act makes punitive responses to substance violations a requirement in any school that accepts federal funds, the second part of the plan will tie into a federal lobbying effort against this stipulation, similar to that of the HEA campaign.
Our experience is that most university and college administrators would prefer to take non-punitive approaches to substance issues on campus and often quietly do so when they are able to get away with it making this an issue on which drug reformers can again ally with the higher education community to seek changes in federal law. This year we will begin a campaign to pass two resolutions through student government associations: the first will call for immediate changes in on-campus policies, which has already been accomplished at The George Washington University and Ohio University. The second resolution will call for changes to the 1989 Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, which will enable schools to determine their own policies.
Though SSDP is principally a college organization, there are a growing number of high school chapters as well. We believe that many more will form if and when SSDP begins to work on issues of more immediate concern to high school students. As part of the research and development stage of this campaign over the coming one or two semesters, we intend to develop activist campaigns for high school and junior high school students, all based on the same theme of drug education and zero tolerance in schools. One method by which we will recruit high school chapters will be through the help of college freshman involved with SSDP. These students will most likely still have friends in high school who in turn know students at other colleges, who know students at other high schools, and so on.
We would like to develop a grade school campaign that could replace current drug education programs such as D.A.R.E., with harm reduction approaches that do not reinforce the prohibitionist mindset; and will almost certainly seek to reduce the use of suspension and expulsion as an approach to substance issues. We believe that the issues of zero tolerance and drug education in all schools are ripe for reform, and that they could also serve as a catalyst to a larger community debate regarding drug policy as a whole.
The United States began implementation of “Plan Colombia” in 1999, under which $1.5 billion in U.S. tax dollars, primarily in the form of military aid, is being given to the Colombian government. However, Colombia’s ongoing war is more than just a tax burden on Americans who lack the necessary number of substance abuse facilities to deal with today’s drug problems; it is a four-decades old civil war with no end in sight. Human rights groups have consistently linked the Colombian military with paramilitary death squads responsible for the slaughter of thousands, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Plan Colombia’s proponents justify the policy by arguing that it is necessary to stem the flow of drugs from that country to ours. However, most credible experts agree that its only tangible impact will be to increase the existing carnage while drawing the U.S. further into a military quagmire.
As students, we find ourselves in a very important position because it is our name that is being used to legitimize the U.S. role in Colombia. For the past two decades the War on Drugs has expanded under the banner of protecting the children, the students, the D.A.R.E. Generation. Yet we have not been protected and now that we are of age and our voices can be heard, we are saying “no more.” We will no longer allow our names to be used to fuel the expansion of the largest prison population in the world, or the U.S. military’s involvement in yet another “jungle war.” Our agenda thus includes this section on the war in Colombia. SSDP will work to educate the public and fellow students about U.S. involvement in Colombia through our speakers series, on-campus tabling, the publication of op-eds in college, local, and national newspapers, and through our website. The D.A.R.E. Generation does not support our nation’s actions in Colombia and we will continue to spread the message until it is known that our names cannot be used legitimately to justify the military’s efforts in Colombia.
Read more about our organization here on our about us page!
Testing human urine for traces of illicit drugs has become commonplace in schools, businesses, and government. This practice on its surface raises many eyebrows because it infringes on the right to privacy for all people. People who are subjected to these tests do nothing to warrant them, beyond accepting a job or attempting to participate in school activities. The recent Supreme Court decision has brought drug testing national attention, and SSDP will be working to stop the arbitrary and degrading practice of randomly drug testing students simply because they want to join extra curricular activities. Testing students in extra-curricular activities is not only a violation of their privacy, but counterproductive.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s own statistics indicate, for example, that students in extra-curricular activities are nearly half as likely as students not involved in activities to use drugs (17% of students highly involved in extra-curricular activities use drugs, as opposed to 32% of those who aren’t involved). Threatening to test students may scare them away from after school activities and towards the very drug use the testing is supposed to prevent. Drug testing can also encourage some kids to progress from marijuana to more dangerous drugs. Marijuana stays in the body for days or even weeks, while cocaine stays in for only a couple of days and alcohol is only detectable while the user is intoxicated. Alcohol kills over 100,000 people a year. Marijuana kills nobody. False positives can be caused by such innocent substances as Advil or poppy seeds. What comes next after random urine testing? Body cavity searches? Where does the Supreme Court draw the line?
We at SSDP believe that the line has already been crossed, and that random drug testing of students, simply because they want to join the chess team or the glee club, is a blatant violation of student’s constitutional rights.