Teens See Drug Trade School Staffers Miss: Students Urged to End Their Silence

By Wetzstein, Cheryl | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

Teens See Drug Trade School Staffers Miss: Students Urged to End Their Silence


Wetzstein, Cheryl, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


American teens think their schools are a "candy store" where they can easily buy dangerous and illegal substances from classmates, a new survey says.

More than 40 percent of high school students say they've "seen drugs sold in school or on school grounds," Joseph A. Califano Jr., the chairman of the National Center on Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), said at a news conference yesterday.

"Yet many teachers and principals seem oblivious to this drug trade - only 12 percent of high school teachers and 14 percent of middle and high school principals report seeing drugs sold" on school grounds, he said.

The solution is for everyone to get tough on drugs, Mr. Califano said.

"Teens must break their wall of silence about classmates who deal and use drugs and report them to school authorities," he said.

Adults, he said, must "demand" drug-free schools, learn how to spot substance abuse and take action, whether it is to "quarantine" dealers or get users into treatment.

Drug-free school has become an oxymoron, said Mr. Califano, who headed the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the Carter administration. To many students, he said, schools "are a candy store of dangerous substances - cigarettes, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, heroin, cocaine and acid - sold by classmates on the school grounds."

The CASA data, like other recent surveys, show that "people over 30 don't understand how serious the drug problem is," said William Bennett, co-director of Empower America.

"The kids are yelling, but their parents apparently have the TV on and don't hear them," said Mr. Bennett, who ran the Education Department under President Reagan.

CASA's findings on drug use are "generally on target," but other studies show that "schools are very safe places to be," said Bill Modzeleski, director of the Education Department's Safe and Drug-Free Schools program.

With 51 million children attending school, there are bound to be problems, Mr. Modzeleski said. "But a majority of these schools remain safe schools . . . where kids are not using drugs and are not bringing in drugs."

Drug use in America peaked in the 1970s - in 1979, for instance, 60 percent of high school seniors said they had tried marijuana. …

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