Handbook of Schooling in Urban America

By Stanley William Rothstein | Go to book overview

17
Crack Kids: An Emerging Educational
Dilemma

Patricia G. Tweeddale

Drug use is a problem in urban society and its schools. A new dimension of this problem is the use of illicit drugs by pregnant women and the resulting effects on their unborn infants. Crack/cocaine use, in particular, is approaching epidemic proportions, and its effects on infants in utero are creating a new population of schoolchildren exhibiting heretofore unseen problems. According to U.S. News and World Report,1 this epidemic is the result of a shrewd and enormously successful marketing strategy by drug traffickers, with the result that crack, with subsequent addiction, has become easily accessible and initially affordable for the poor. The urban poor are the most severely affected, and a subgroup, women of reproductive age, is exposing a new generation to in-utero polydrug effects. While not limited to undereducated, poor, and minority individuals, the crack epidemic particularly affects these groups. Crack use and other problems associated with poverty--such as various types of chemical abuse, teen-age pregnancies, low birth-weight infants, single-parent families, and child neglect and abuse--all occur more frequently in particular groups of individuals and populations at inordinate risk, educationally, socially, and physically.2 The accelerating incidence of these conditions raises serious questions about the ability of the public schools alone, as presently structured and financed, to deal successfully with this ever-increasing population of children. To educate and usher these afflicted children into the mainstream of American society will require alternative programs.3

The effects of cocaine on the developing fetus, although not completely understood, are toxic and result in long- and short-term consequences. Cocaine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that blocks neuronal uptake of norepinephrine, resulting in increased heart rate and blood pressure. Due to its low molecular weight and high water and fat solubility, cocaine readily crosses the placenta. Numerous variables affect just how much of the drug reaches the developing fetus. According to Flandermeyer, "The extent of placental drug

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