Friday, March 07, 2014
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Impact of the Drug War and Drug Policies on Youth, The Poor, and The Family
On August 5, 2009, local news station WSOC-TV 9 in Charlotte, NC reported that the FBI "startled" east Charlotte resident Rosie Lee Bright, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, on August 4 "when federal agents burst into her apartment searching for suspects in a drug trafficking ring" ("FBI Storms Wrong Home in East Charlotte"). Bright reports repeatedly asking officers "What happened, what happened, and they said it was a drug bust." However, the "only drugs [Bright] had in [her] apartment [...] were to help with her breast cancer treatments."
Bright immediately recognized the raid as "a case of mistaken identity," but police remained unaware of their blunder until after they "ordered her to lie on the floor and handcuffed her." As the article states, "Agents later learned that the suspects they were looking for were actually in the apartment next door;" a raid on the correct apartment netted the arrests of "two men who [the FBI agents] said are part of a heroin trafficking ring that's been operating" in two North Carolina counties. An FBI spokesperson told the news outlet "that the mix-up appears to have been an honest mistake," and the agents "apologized and offered to pay any medical bills [Bright] might have because of the raid" upon learning of their mistake, the victim said.
Although these FBI agents, along with a growing number of their law enforcement colleagues, probably need to take a couple of courses in math (or number recognition) and geography (or apartment building navigation), they don't appear to need etiquette lessons. An apology - though called for - does not suffice when armed federal agents storm into an innocent person's home and force its resident (especially when she is currently going through treatment for breast cancer) to lie handcuffed on the ground because trained FBI employees couldn't correctly identify a number on an apartment door, the agents at least acknowledged their mistake, recognized that their treatment of her was rough enough that the victim may have sustained injuries, and attempted to make up for their wrongdoing by compensating Bright for any damage they may have caused. It's a sad day in America when this has to be said, but at least the officers kept their weapons in their holsters this time.
Click on the article link above to watch a video interview with Bright courtesy of WSOC-TV 9.
A former student in Arizona's impoverished Safford Unified School District felt, quite rightly, that school administrators violated her constitutional protections when they strip-searched her in search of prescription-strength ibuprofen in 2003. She thus filed, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project, a lawsuit against the school district, which she ultimately won in a near-unanimous 8-1 Supreme Court decision handed down June 25, 2009, a same day post on the ACLU's Blog of Rights, penned partially by Savana herself, states.
Redding, who was just 13 when the search was conducted (she is now 19 and attending Eastern Arizona College), claimed that school officials trampled upon her right to privacy when they ordered her to not only strip "to her underwear" but also, as she states in a New York Times article by Adam Liptak ("Strip-Search Case Tests How Far Schools Can Go"), "pull out my bra and move it from side to side [...]. They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear." Redding contends that she was humiliated by the strip search, though school nurse Peggy Schwallier, one of two female administrators who conducted the search on the order of assistant principal Kerry Wilson, claims that the student "never appeared apprehensive or embarrased;" Redding, however, "said she had kept her head down so the women could not see that she was about to cry." Additionally, Redding studied at home "for months after the search" and eventually transferred to another school. As she told Liptak, "I never wanted to see the secretary or the nurse ever again."
The extent of the search looks particularly eggregious when viewed in conjunction with both the substance Redding was accused of possessing (one prescription strength ibuprofen equivocates to about two over-the-counter Advils) and the evidence on which school officials based their suspicions. As Liptak writes, "In a friend-of-the-court brief in Ms. Redding's case, the federal government said the search [...] was unreasonable because officials had no reason to believe that she was 'carrying the pills inside her undergarments, attached to her nude body, or anywhere else that a strip search would reveal." Adam Wolf, Redding's ACLU attorney, concurred. In fact, he and Redding went sligtly further, contending that the initial evidence that prompted the search was tainted, based as it was "on a classmate's uncorroborated accusation" after the classmate herself was found in possession of the same type of pills, according the ACLU's blog post. Lawyers for the Safford Unified School District, on the other hand, argued that the search was "not excessively intrusive in light of Redding's age and sex and the nature of her suspected infraction." To support their assertion, the attorneys cited "data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy" concerning a reported rise in "[a]buse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs [...] among 12- and 13-year-olds." They even attempted to besmirch Redding's character; when the student claimed that "They didn't even look at my records [and see that] I was a good kid," the district dismissed Redding's charge, stating that her "assertion should not be misread to infer that she never broke school rules [...] only that she was never caught."
Fortunately for parents, students, and defenders of the Fourth Amendment across the nation, the Supreme Court found the school district's defense inadequate and ruled in Redding's favor. However, the Justices based their ruling primarily on the merits of the Redding defense's case and, as Redding writes in her statement for the ACLU's blog, "didn't go so far" as to ban "all strip search[es of] kids," which she would have preferred. Still, the Supreme Court "did rule that my constitutional rights were violated," Redding said. As now-retired Justice Souder, writing for the majority, put it "Because there were no reasons to suspect that the drugs presented a danger or were concealed in her underwear, we hold that the search did violate the Constitution" ("SAFFORD UNIFIED SCHOOL DIST #1 v. REDDING).
To find out more about this gross violation of the teenaged Redding's civil liberties, follow the above links. Additionally, all legal documents pertaining to the case are available in the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project's Legal Documents archive.
Readers who followed the now six-year-old case of racial profiling, informant misuse, and official corruption in Tulia, Texas have one more reason to declare victory: in April of 2009, a feature-length film based on the incident, American Violet, opened in theatres across the country; the film not only serves as a fictionalized historical documentation of the injustice served upon residents of a Tulia housing project but also shines a national spotlight on drug war racism and corruption, bringing these issues out of the shadows and into the national consciousness.
The film is directed by Bill Haney (in conjunction with his production partner, Tim Disney), who heard about the story while "driving home during rush hour [listening] to National Public Radio." The director told the Los Angeles Times that he "began to cry" when he heard the story of "Regina Kelly, a young African American woman -- a single mother with four daughters -- [...] who was unjustly arrested during a raid on the projects where she lived" and erroniously "accused of dealing drugs" ("American Violet"). That "[t]he district attorney gave her the option of either a plea deal" - which would saddle her with a criminal record, barr her from voting, and cause her to "lose most of her rights" - or going to jail for 25 years" particularly upset Haney, who called the DA's offer a "Sophie's Choice." Departing from their usual documentary mode, Haney and Disney decided to make the case into "a dramatic feature," and they thus fictionalized some aspects of the story (such as Kelly's name, which was changed to Dee Roberts) while remaining true to the basic facts of the case. The filmmakers explained that they "thought doing the film as a feature would have more universal resonance with audiences" and, as Haney told the Times, "affect more people's views."
American Violet chronicles Kelly's tough but eventually victourious legal battle with District Attorney John Paschall, in which the ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project participated. Haney not only reviewed the group's relevant legal documents, which readers can view for themselves by searching the Project's document archive, but also "went to Texas and spent a lot of time with Kelly, her children, and the attorneys, filming long interviews with them." Haney reports that he "always felt a great responsibility to the story" as well as to Kelly herself, with whom he maintains contact. The resulting cinematic document thus portrays Kelly's ordeal empathetically and passionately, never forgetting to ensure that viewers remain aware of the personal biases that law enforcement officials bring to their jobs; the structural inequities imbedded in the criminal justice system; and the plight of the poor, racially marginalized citizens who bare the brunt of the drug war's collateral consequences. However, the film is engaging enough to avoid being overly didactic.
If drug policy and criminal justice reform activists want to inform those to whom the harms of prohibition are less obvious, American Violet provides an interesting test case in doing so through popular cultural representations and will hopefully be replicated by similarly motivated filmmakers in the future. To learn more about the film, visit its official web site; you can also become a fan of the film on Facebook.
As the Drug War Chronicle reported on March 20, 2009 ("Bills to Require Drug Testing for Welfare, Unemployment Pop Up Around Country"), "In Arizona, Hawaii, Missouri, and Oklahoma, bills have been filed that would force people seeking public assistance to undergo random drug tests and forgo benefits if they test positive" for drug use. Additionally, a Florida bill proposes testing for "people who receive unemployment compensation," and West Virginian legislators targeted both groups, though, according to an April 4 report by the Chronicle, that bill was defeated in the state's House ("Widely Publicized West Virginia Bill to Test People on Public Assistance Dies"). However, the Kansas House went so far as to pass such a bill - a relatively rare move considering the massive amount of similar proposals that die in state committees annually.
Many bills languish in legislatures due to "cost concerns," constitutional issues, and other "practical or operational issues." Even when Michigan "passed a welfare drug testing law in 1999," which "required all Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) applicants to provide urine samples to be considered eligible for assistance," the program was eventually ruled unconstitutional; "the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier district ruling that the blanket, suspicionless testing of recipients violated the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures." Moreover, welfare and other related kinds of drug testing "ha[ve] also been rejected by a broad cross-spectrum of organizations concerned with public health, welfare rights, and drug reform." Michigan state chair for the National Welfare Rights Organization responded "incredulous[ly]" when asked for comment by the Chronicle, and West Virginia ACLU employee Frank Crabtree called the policies "really bad." He continued, "These are the most vulnerable people in our society, and their children are even more vulnerable. These are people of who the legislature has no fear. They have to deal with the problems of daily life to such a degree that they are not as politcally active, and that makes this bill just seem like a bullying tactic."
When 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman, a "social drug dealer" in Tallahassee, FL, was arrested on possession and intent to distribute charges in 2008, police convinced her that she could avoid jail time and a criminal record if she moved over to their side and acted as a snitch. However, she surely never suspected that when she "went off to do a controlled buy of guns and cocaine" - commodities with which she was not intimately familiar - "[h]er police handlers" would "los[e] contact with her" until they found her body "two days later." As the Drug War Chronicle states ("Fall-Out Continues in the Case of Murdered Informant Rachel Hoffman"), Hoffman was a victim of a relatively recently "developed [law enforcement] system that relies on 'flipping' people arrested on drug charges -- getting them to agree to become informants in hopes of seeing their own charges reduced."
Now, Hoffman's parents are trying to change that system with both a lawsuit against Tallahassee police and, even better, a bill in the state's legislature, sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richie). The proposal, dubbed "Rachel's Law," hopes "to tighten the standards for using young people as snitches." As Fasano stated, "We've got to do our best in working with law enforcement to protect young people like that ... who don't realize what they're getting themselves into."
Local police sell the campaign as a way to tap the citizen's desire to get involved to stop crime and drugs. According to the Herald Express July 31, 2008 article,("We Need You In The War On Drugs") "They want to harness the help of the public to catch the 'vile dealers in drugs' whose activities are directly linked to the majority of dwelling burglaries and vehicle crime across the Bay. A similar enterprise in Plymouth, launched late last year, has already been hailed a major success. Officers behind the Bay initiative are hoping to celebrate the same crime-busting results from the community."
The article adds, "Police are actively encouraging residents to 'grass up' anyone they suspect of involvement in the illicit drugs trade, much of which they say is financed by the proceeds of crimes that impact most on the community, particularly thefts from cars and homes. Supt Singer said: 'People should have no qualms against reporting those who make their living out of other people's misery. 'This is a worthy campaign which we hope will further strengthen the sense of pride in the community which the Bay already enjoys."
The article adds, "His comments are endorsed by Bob Widdecombe, chairman of Devon and Cornwall Crimestoppers Trust, who said: 'We want to know where the drugs are coming from, who is using them and who is selling them. 'Plymouth has shown the campaign does work because lots of information has come through and arrests have been made. We want that duplicated in Torbay.' The campaign will include a number of publicity posters appearing at key sites around the Bay."
The Government Accountability Office released a report on Oct. 10, 2007 ("Residential Treatment Programs: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth") examining thousands of allegations of abuse at residential treatment programs for youth around the US. The report provides horrific detail of a number of specific cases including several deaths.
According to the report, "GAO found thousands of allegations of abuse, some of which involved death, at residential treatment programs across the country and in American-owned and American-operated facilities abroad between the years 1990 and 2007.Allegations included reports of abuse and death recorded by state agencies and the Department of Health and Human Services, allegations detailed in pending civil and criminal trials with hundreds of plaintiffs, and claims of abuse and death that were posted on the Internet. For example, during 2005 alone, 33 states reported 1,619 staff members involved in incidents of abuse in residential programs."
The report also notes that "GAO also examined, in greater detail, 10 closed civil or criminal cases from 1990 through 2004 where a teenager died while enrolled in a private program. GAO found significant evidence of ineffective management in most of the 10 cases, with program leaders neglecting the needs of program participants and staff. This ineffective management compounded the negative consequences of (and sometimes directly resulted in) the hiring of untrained staff; a lack of adequate nourishment; and reckless or negligent operating practices,including a lack of adequate equipment."
The New Jersey Board of Education is considering adopting rules which would require schools to use state-certified labs for student drug testing programs rather than leaving these tests in the hands of a school nurse. The Herald News reported on July 19, 2007 ("Schools Warn NJ Rules Could End Drug Testing") that "Drug testing rules proposed by the state Board of Education would make it harder and more costly for districts to randomly test students, local and White House officials testified Wednesday in Trenton. The rules would not require districts to test students, but would stipulate that those that do screen teenagers must conduct and analyze the tests at state-licensed laboratories, or become state-licensed labs themselves. Any costs associated with drug testing would fall to the district. Currently, most of the 20 districts in the state that screen students rely on school nurses to conduct and analyze the tests. Results that aren't clearly negative are sent to a lab for further evaluation."
According to the Herald News, "The proposal covers only students in Grades 9-12. It would not preclude testing of younger students, nor would it impose restrictions on how their specimens are collected or analyzed, said Susan Martz, director of educational support services for the state Education Department. The Department of Education proposed the rules at the behest of the Legislature, which maintains that random drug testing may dissuade students from using drugs. 'The issue for us is whether schools are really affording kids the protection they need,' said Martz. 'We have to balance that against whether the regulations impose undue burdens on the districts.' Though less than 10 percent of the state's high school districts randomly test their students, the figure has been steadily rising since 2002, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schools could test students as long as it didn't interfere with a student's right to academic instruction."
The Herald News noted that "If tests are positive, parents are notified but police are not. Those students are barred from school activities until they receive counseling and pass a subsequent test. Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, was the only speaker to testify in favor of the proposed regulations. 'These policies and procedures are critical to ensuring that the random drug testing that is done in our schools is of the highest quality and the least prone to errors that might cause false positives or false negatives.' According to the 2005 New Jersey Student Health Survey, 79 percent of students have consumed alcohol and 36 percent have tried marijuana. In the 30 days prior to the survey, 46 percent of students drank alcohol and 20 percent used marijuana."
The US Conference of Mayors held its 75th annual meeting June 22-26, 2007 in Los Angeles, CA. One of the resolutions they adopted at the conference urges an end to the status quo "war on drugs" and calls for a "New Bottom Line" in US drug policy.
The drug war resolution runs from page 47 through page 50 of the resolution packet. The major text of the resolution is as follows:
"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the United States Conference of Mayors believes the war on drugs has failed and calls for a New Bottom Line in U.S. drug policy, a public health approach that concentrates more fully on reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse, while ensuring that our policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social problems of their own; establishes quantifiable, short- and long-term objectives for drug policy; saves taxpayer money; and holds state and federal agencies accountable; and
The US Supreme Court ruled against student free speech in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case. The Juneau Empire reported on June 26, 2007 ("'Bong Hits' Ruling Sides With District") that "In a 5-4 decision, the U.S Supreme Court ruled that former Juneau-Douglas High School Principal Deborah Morse was within her rights to suspend a student and suppress a banner that said 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus.' Any message 'perceived to promote drugs will be determined to be controlled speech,' Morse said in a teleconference after the decision. 'It will be illegal.' 'This case eliminates the confusion over whether the First Amendment permits regulation of student speech when such speech is advocating or making light of illegal substances,' school Superintendent Peggy Cowan said. Doug Mertz, the Juneau attorney who argued the case of former student Joseph Frederick, said the court allowed a free-speech issue to be turned into a drug debate. 'This is an extremely dangerous precedent,' Mertz said. 'This is the first time a subject matter is outside the protection of the First Amendment.'"
In spite of the ruling there is still hope for free speech in Alaska. According to the Empire, "Mertz said he and Frederick would confer about a final option, referring the case to the Alaska Supreme Court. 'We are going to look at it very closely,' Mertz said. 'We believe the state constitution offers greater protection.' Mertz said the decision to seek the state's high court opinion rests primarily with his client. Frederick was flying home from China when the decision was handed down."
The Empire noted that "The court's dissenters said the decision in Morse v. Frederick amounted to discrimination against specific viewpoints. 'The court does serious violence to the First Amendment in upholding -- indeed, lauding -- a school's decision to punish ( a student ) for expressing a view with which it disagreed,' Justice John Paul Stevens wrote. 'The court's ruling ... creates a drug exception to the First Amendment,' said Steven Shapiro, national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. The case was one of the most closely watched school free-speech cases since 1969, when the Supreme Court ruled that Iowa high school student Mary Beth Tinker could wear a black armband opposing the Vietnam War. Now a nurse practitioner in St. Louis, Tinker was in the courtroom during the March 19 oral argument in the 'Bong Hits' case."
Teachers in Hawaii narrowly approved a new contract which included a provision requiring them to face random urine drug testing. The publication Education Weekly for May 9, 2007 reported ("Hawaii Teachers Face Random Drug Tests") that "The Hawaii State Teachers Association has ratified a new contract that will require its members to undergo random drug and alcohol testing--a requirement unusual for public school teachers--as the price for receiving a 4 percent salary increase each year over the next two years. The plan was tentatively approved on April 20 by the state and by leaders of the 13,000-member union, and was endorsed by 61.3 percent of members who took part in a ratification vote, the results of which were announced May 2. According to the contract, the union and the state education department will work together to develop the drug-testing program, which must be in place by the end of June 2008. The testing would be conducted by an independent lab, and principals would not be allowed to choose who is tested or see the results."
According to Education Weekly, "Greg Knudsen, a spokesman for the 181,000-student statewide district, said that even though the department was already working with the union to develop a 'reasonable suspicion' drug testing policy, that doesn't imply that officials think drug abuse is a widespread problem among teachers. 'The department didn't initiate it,' he said about the random testing proposal. United Public Workers, a separate 12,000-member union in the state that includes school cafeteria workers and custodians, had already ratified a contract that includes a random drug testing provision. But Roger Takabayashi, the president of HSTA, said his members 'feel disrespected' by the way in which the testing provision was tied to the pay raise, which brings a starting teacher's salary in the state to $43,157 a year, from $39,901. 'It was a tremendous blow,' he said. 'It's really a slap in the face.'"
The Weekly noted that "Observers said they would not be surprised if the new program ends up in court. 'I think this is a lawsuit waiting to happen,' said Julia Koppich, a San Francisco-based author and expert on teacher's unions. 'Someone is going to say 'You don't get to drug test me without probable cause.' '"
Teachers in Hawaii are objecting to a drug test requirement which has been inserted into their new contracts. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported on April 24, 2007 ("Teachers Call Drug Tests A Deal-Breaker For State") that "Public school teachers questioning why drug testing was included in their new contract are being told the state made the item a 'non-negotiable demand.' A video posted on the Hawaii State Teachers Association's Web site says the state made drug testing a prerequisite to settle a contract giving about 13,000 teachers 4 percent raises in each of the next two years. On Wednesday, HSTA President Roger Takabayashi was the only member of the union's board of directors to vote against sending the contract for ratification. Twenty-six members backed the contract and one abstained."
According to the Star-Bulletin, "If the teachers union had objected to drug testing, the state would not have agreed to a tentative contract offering some 13,000 teachers 4 percent raises in each of the next two years and other benefits, according to a video posted on the HSTA Web site. The video answers 16 questions about the contract, two of which deal with the proposed test by asking, 'How did random drug testing become a bargaining issue?' and, 'How are you going to protect teachers' rights under random drug testing?' In the video, Lilian Yamasaki, chairwoman of the negotiations committee for the union, said removing the drug-testing provision was not an option. 'The employer made this a non-negotiable demand,' she said. 'In order to get a pay raise and the other items, random drug testing had to be part of the collective bargaining agreement.'"
The Star-Bulletin noted that "It is unclear how teachers would be tested for drugs. The contract requires the testing to start by the 2008-09 school year. The Department of Education currently tests about 30 bus drivers and 25 physical therapists who work with deaf and blind students, as well as a few auto mechanics instructors, said spokesman Greg Knudsen. While the urine tests cost about $35 each, he said it is a minimal cost to a department that hires as many as 50,000 workers. 'It is not even a significant cost at this point,' Knudsen said, 'but it would be when applied to a base of 13,000 teachers.' Carl Linden, scientific director for Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc., which tested Honolulu police officers for drugs until last year, said companies often test between 15 percent and 20 percent of their work force. To meet that mark, the department would have to test about 2,600 teachers annually, which could cost taxpayers about $91,000. Teachers will vote on the contract Thursday afternoon. If the vote fails, the union likely will miss a legislative deadline to submit the contract to lawmakers to fund pay raises, and the HSTA would have to go back to the bargaining table with the state."
The Supreme Court heard arguments in a free speech case which has become known as 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus'. Concerns have arisen that the Court may create a 'drug exception to students' First Amendment rights.' The Christian Science Monitor reported on March 19, 2007 ("Student Free Speech vs School Drug Policy") that "A dispute over a student prank near a high school in Juneau, Alaska, is raising constitutional questions about student free speech and whether school officials can be sued for damages when they take action to muzzle a teenager's attempt at humor. On Monday, the US Supreme Court takes up a case involving a student-displayed banner that proclaimed: 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus.' At issue is whether a high school principal violated the free-speech rights of a student in 2002 when she confiscated the banner and suspended the student for 10 days after he and others unfurled the sign in front of much of the student body and local television cameras. The principal's action was upheld by the school superintendent, the Juneau School Board, and a federal judge. But a three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the federal judge, ruling that the principal could be sued personally for money damages for violating the student's clearly established free-speech rights."
According to the Monitor, "The case revolves around an incident that took place in January 2002 when the Olympic torch relay passed through Juneau on its way to Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympics. The torch was set to be carried down Glacier Avenue in front of the high school. School officials allowed students to assemble in front of the school to watch the event. As the torch and television cameras approached, Frederick and nine other individuals standing across the street from the school unfurled the banner, which was 14 feet in length. The banner was meant as a meaningless and humorous phrase that might attract the attention of the TV cameras covering the relay, Mertz says. It was a joke, not an advertisement urging students to use illicit drugs, the lawyer says in his brief. But if it were just a joke, the principal wasn't laughing. She crossed the street and confronted those holding the banner. Frederick refused to take it down, saying he had a First Amendment right to display the banner since he was across the street and off school grounds. Frederick says he told the school administrator that Thomas Jefferson once said that free speech can't 'be limited without being lost.' The principal confiscated the banner and suspended Frederick from school for 10 days."
The Court heard the case on March 19. The New York Times reported on March 20, 2007 ("Court Probes Student Free Speech Limits") that "Kenneth W. Starr had a strategy for convincing the Supreme Court that an Alaska high school principal and school board did not violate a student's free-speech rights by punishing him for displaying the words 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' on a 14-foot-long banner across the street from school as the 2002 Olympic torch parade went by. 'Illegal drugs and the glorification of the drug culture are profoundly serious problems for our nation,' Mr. Starr, a former solicitor general, told the justices in the opening moments of his argument on Monday. In other words, his approach was to present the free-speech case as a drug case and argue that whatever rights students may have under the First Amendment to express themselves, speaking in oblique or even in arguably humorous dissent from a school's official antidrug message is not one of them. That was Mr. Starr's story, and he stuck with it, through a series of hypothetical questions from the justices and on into a one-minute rebuttal at the end of the lively hour. While Mr. Starr may not prevail on the full breadth of his argument, his strategy appeared on the verge of succeeding well enough to shield his clients, the Juneau School Board and Deborah Morse, the high school principal, from having to pay damages to the student, Joseph Frederick. A majority of the court seemed willing to create what would amount to a drug exception to students' First Amendment rights, much as the court has in recent years permitted widespread drug testing of students, even those not personally suspected of using drugs, under a relaxed view of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches."
According to the Times, "One issue in this case, Morse v. Frederick, No. 06-278, was the nature of the event at which the student unfurled his provocative banner. Edwin S. Kneedler, a deputy solicitor general who shared Mr. Starr's argument time and presented the Bush administration's position in support of the school, said the torch event was the equivalent of a school assembly, with students attending under their teachers' supervision and under the school's jurisdiction. Mr. Mertz said it was basically a public event in a public place. In that context, he argued, the sign was not disruptive. The distinction matters, because under the Tinker precedent, student speech can lose its protected status if it is unduly disruptive. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy took issue with Mr. Mertz's characterization of the display as not being disruptive. 'It was completely disruptive of the message, of the theme that the school wanted to promote,' Justice Kennedy said, adding: 'Completely disruptive of the reason for letting the students out to begin with. Completely disruptive of the school's image that they wanted to portray in sponsoring the Olympics.' As in many other cases, Justice Kennedy's vote may prove crucial to the outcome. This case presents a particular challenge for him. While he is perhaps the most speech-protective of the justices, he is also highly pro-government on issues involving illegal drugs. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked a series of questions suggesting that his sympathies lay with the student rather than the school. That would be consistent with a decision he wrote six years ago as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that struck down a Pennsylvania school district's speech code. In that case, Saxe v. State College Area School District, Judge Alito said the policy 'strikes at the heart of moral and political discourse -- the lifeblood of constitutional self-government ( and democratic education ) and the core concern of the First Amendment.' His opinion was based on an interpretation of the Tinker precedent that was notably more robust than that put forward on Monday by Mr. Starr and Mr. Kneedler and, seemingly, by Chief Justice Roberts. During the argument, Justice Alito interrupted Mr. Kneedler as the deputy solicitor general was asserting that a school 'does not have to tolerate a message that is inconsistent' with is basic educational mission. 'I find that a very, very disturbing argument,' Justice Alito said, 'because schools have defined their educational mission so broadly that they can suppress all sorts of political speech and speech expressing fundamental values of the students under the banner of getting rid of speech that's inconsistent with educational missions.' In response, Mr. Kneedler said that for that reason, 'it would make a lot of sense' for the court to issue a narrow ruling limited to student advocacy of illegal conduct in general or drug use in particular."
Legislation to punish women for using drugs while pregnant narrowly passed the Idaho Senate at the end of February. The Idaho State Journal reported on March 1, 2006 ( "'Meth-Mom' Bill Clears Senate 18-16") that "The bill, which passed by an 18-16 vote, would mean pregnant mothers convicted of doing marijuana, LSD, methamphetamine or other drugs could face up to five years in jail and a $50,000 penalty. If the option is available to them, the guilty mothers could choose to attend drug court instead of going to jail."
According to the State Journal, "Law enforcement officials have said the bill would give them a new tool in the fight against meth and other drugs and local prosecutors say the measure would benefit the health of both mothers and their children. But opponents of the proposal blasted the “meth moms" bill on Tuesday as a reactionary solution to an ever-widening social problem. "The bill does nothing to address the problem of addiction," said Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise. “Being addicted to meth is not a crime, it's a disease." According to one lawmaker, statistics from South Carolina have shown that implementation of tough laws against pregnant drug users result in an 80 percent reduction in pre-natal treatment."
The State Journal noted that "Interestingly, the 35-member Senate includes only four women, three of whom voted against the bill. And while methamphetamine and other drugs are widely thought to have negative consequences if taken during pregnancy, the only substance definitively shown to harm a fetus is alcohol, a product legal to those age 21 and over."
Local prosecutors in Missouri are using a section of Missouri law to go after pregnant women who are found to have used methamphetamine. The Springfield News-Leader reported on Dec. 29, 2005 ( "Charge Filed After Baby Born With Meth Traces") that "A Springfield mother faces a charge of child endangerment after she and her newborn baby tested positive for methamphetamine. Greene County Assistant Prosecutor Jill Patterson said she expected to prosecute similar cases as part of a new policy targeting mothers who use illegal drugs shortly before giving birth. Sarah A. Weese, 19, was charged Tuesday with one count of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child, a class C felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. A toxicology report found that Weese had methamphetamine in her system when she gave birth in May to her daughter at St. John's Hospital, according to the probable cause statement filed in the case. When questioned by a Springfield police officer, Weese admitted to smoking about a gram of methamphetamine three days before giving birth. Tests of the baby's excrement sent to a Minnesota lab tested positive for the drug, as well."
According to the News-Leader, "Patterson said the new policy of charging mothers who use drugs close to childbirth is the result of conversations and 'brainstorming' with pediatricians and police. 'It's something I've been aware of for quite some time,' she said. Advice from doctors — who could provide expert testimony about the damage of prenatal drug use — helped establish a focus for prosecution, she said. 'I've determined that how you do that, at least initially, is by prosecuting the ones who test positive at birth.' Although she hasn't ruled out filing charges in cases that involve marijuana or other drugs, Patterson said pediatricians singled out cocaine and methamphetamine as posing the most significant risks to newborns. 'There has to be a pretty clear relationship between the risks (posed by the mother's behavior) and the effects on the child,' she said. '... If you're using meth close to birth, there are very immediate risks.'"
The News-Leader noted that "Patterson said that as part of the new effort, she has been working with police to establish a system that would initiate a police response when a new mother tests positive for drugs — a similar system triggers newborn crisis assessments by the Missouri Department of Social Services' Children's Division. Deborah Scott, a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services, said the agency does not track the number of children removed from their parents by type of drug — yet. But drugs, especially methamphetamine, are often a factor. 'We track the number of children that are removed from their parents annually due to a drug-related cause,' Scott said Wednesday. '... Of the approximately 11,000 children in the Children's Division's custody, about 29 percent of them had parental drug use as a condition of removal (as of March, 2005).'"
A court ruling has prompted a legislative attempt to further criminalize pregnant women who are also drug-dependent. The Billings Gazette reported on Oct. 3, 2005 ( "Legislators Prepare Bill In Response To Meth Ruling") that "Rep. Elaine Harvey is having a bill drafted to make it clear that a new Wyoming law protecting children from methamphetamine also applies to an unborn child. Last week, a state district judge in Lander dismissed a child endangerment case against a woman whose newborn child tested positive for methamphetamine because the state law did not specifically say it applied to fetuses. Harvey, R-Lovell, was the chief sponsor of the 2004 felony child endangerment law the defendant, Michele Ann Foust, 31, was charged under. 'I thought we were covered. The intent was to protect unborn children but apparently this is a gray area,' Harvey said."
According to the Gazette, "The law carries a penalty of five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both for allowing a child to be in a place where meth is 'possessed, stored or ingested.' Harvey said she will take her proposed changes to the law to a meeting of the Governor's Task Force on Drug Endangered Children this week in Cheyenne. Meanwhile, the prosecutor in the Foust case, Ed Newell, said he will also seek legislation to attack the problem, but through existing laws rather than by changing the child endangerment law. 'I don't want to jump into that whole abortion briar patch,' Newell said. 'I have no interest in spawning a lot of pro-choice, pro-life debates.' He suggested amending the law against use of a controlled substance to increase the penalty for a pregnant user. A second step would be to require a mandatory minimum sentence for people who deliver meth to a pregnant woman."
The Gazette noted that "Linda Burt, director of the Wyoming Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said such laws put women in a vulnerable position and discourage them from getting prenatal care or treatment for abuse problems. 'They're not helpful to women and they're not helpful to children,' Burt said. The only bill the Legislative Service Office could find that dealt specifically with prenatal substance abuse was never introduced, said its sponsor, former House Speaker Bruce Hinchey of Casper. Hinchey's bill, prepared for the 1996 budget session, would have required medical professionals to report neonatal substance abuse by the mother. It also authorized the Department of Family Services to take into temporary protective custody a newborn infant that tested positive for illegal drugs. Hinchey said he sponsored the bill because of the number of reported cases of women taking illegal drugs during pregnancy. He never introduced the bill partly because people warned him it would touch off a debate on abortion rights."
A model drug abuse prevention program for high schools that's been under development at a California high school for several years is making its national debut. The Oakland Tribune reported on Sept. 30, 2005 ( "Oakland School A Drug-Fight Model") that "A new strategy that national drug-policy reform advocates say is a better means of keeping teenagers off drugs is partly based on a program used for years at Oakland High School. The Drug Policy Alliance on Thursday unveiled 'Beyond Zero Tolerance,' a booklet providing a blueprint for overhauling how schools address teen drug use."
According to the Tribune, "'Zero tolerance is the ideological basis for the practices we want to change — it's the mantra of the drug war as we know it, and it applies to education as much as it does to law enforcement,' said booklet author Rodney Skager, professor emeritus of education at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the booklet, Skager writes that he was first introduced to the concept of 'interactive drug education' by Charles Ries, who runs the UpFront drug program now in its eighth year at Oakland High School. Ries also was on Thursday's conference call unveiling the strategy. 'Essentially, our philosophy is that we create safe environments in which students can discuss their feelings about their using, their friends using, their families using or not using,' he said. 'They're hungry for a place to come and do this ... and they're far more likely to speak up when they need help.'"
The Tribune noted that "Skager said anti-drug education should be focused in high schools, where it is more relevant to children of the appropriate stage of mental and emotional development. And this education must be 'interactive,' he said, meaning it fosters a feeling of connection between students, teachers and the school. Today's 'zero-tolerance' policies that threaten expulsion for drug use and boot users out of the classroom and onto the street only alienate students. Threats must be replaced with 'restorative practices' that teach kids about the effects drugs have on them, their families and their peers, and which give support and aid to children who have already used drugs, Skager said. Most of all, teenagers must receive honest information about drugs in a nonjudgmental atmosphere that lets them share their experiences and ask any questions, including a request for help, he said."
According to the Tribune, the program "includes a series of five in-class workshops on drug topics; ongoing, periodic work by classroom groups; support groups, both voluntary and mandatory; individual counseling; peer facilitator and educator training, to bring certain students into the planning process; mandatory monthly education groups for children already using drugs, alcohol or tobacco; and input from community organizations such as residential drug-treatment programs and anti-violence groups."
The Government Accountability Office ( GAO) issued a report on Sept. 26, 2005, titled " Drug Offenders: Various Factors May Limit the Impacts of Federal Laws That Provide for Denial of Selected Benefits." According to GAO, "Several provisions of federal law allow for or require certain federal benefits to be denied to individuals convicted of drug offenses in federal or state courts. These benefits include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, federally assisted housing, postsecondary education assistance, and some federal contracts and licenses. Given the sizable population of drug offenders in the United States, the number and the impacts of federal denial of benefit provisions may be particularly important if the operations of these provisions work at cross purposes with recent federal initiatives intended to ease prisoner reentry and foster prisoner reintegration into society."
GAO found that:
Below is a table from the GAO's report.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) adopted a resolution at its 2005 national convention opposing the war on drugs, noting its horrific effects on women and women's rights.
The text of the resolution, "Women's Rights - Another Casualty of the 'War on Drugs'," follows:
"WHEREAS, the incarceration rate of women convicted of low-level drug-related offenses has increased dramatically in the past decade as a result of our nation's relentless "War on Drugs," and poor women and women of color have been disproportionately targeted for drug law enforcement and receive long mandatory prison sentences that have little relationship to their actions or culpability; and
The US Drug Czar, John Walters, was pushing urine testing at schools in communities around the country in early 2005. As noted by the Drug Policy Alliance on April 18, 2005 ("Reminder: John Walters in Dallas"), "Drug Czar John Walters is at it again; he's traveling around the country on a taxpayer-funded drug war tour to promote student drug testing as the 'silver bullet' to adolescent drug use. His student drug testing propaganda tour is arriving in Dallas tomorrow! Please join other Drug Policy Alliance members and show your opposition to this insidious policy at the summit. Sign up for a 7:45 AM meet-up to connect and strategize with other reformers before attending. If you attend the summit, please grab hand-outs, snap pictures and share with us what happened by emailing email@example.com."
The summit is being held April 19, 2005, from 9am-5pm at the Sterling Hotel Dallas (1055 Regal Row).
The ACLU and Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs along with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released a report that compiles for the first time existing research on the effects of current drug laws and sentencing policies on women and their families. The report, Caught in the Net: the Impact of Drug Policies on Women & Families, is co-authored by the three organizations and was launched at a national conference of experts on issues relating to women, families and drugs at NYU School of Law on March 17th and 18th, 2005.
According to the ACLU's news release of March 17, 2005 ( "Drug Policies Are Destroying Families, Groups Charge"), "'We've gone from being a nation of latchkey kids to a nation of locked-up moms, where women are the invisible prisoners of drug laws, serving hard time for someone else's crime,' said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project. 'Family values ought to mean keeping families together. Treatment can cure drug addiction, but there's no cure for a family destroyed.'
The release notes that "In the wake of Martha Stewart's release from federal prison last week and the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark rulings on sentencing policies in U.S. v. Booker and U.S. v. FanFan, the Caught in the Net report highlights the sky-rocketing incarceration rates of women in the United States. The number of women serving time in state prison facilities for drug-related offenses has increased 888 percent since 1986 according to the Sentencing Project, and U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics show that more than one million women are currently in prison, in jail, or on parole or probation."
The ACLU further notes that 'Women and their children have for too long remained the unseen victims of the drug war. The Caught in the Net report and conference are meant to bring women's experiences into the ongoing debate that lawmakers are having about sentencing reform,' said Deborah Small, Executive Director of Break the Chains. The report and conference feature representative stories of women minimally, peripherally or unknowingly caught up in drug activity who are found 'guilty by association' with their husbands and boyfriends involved in the drug trade. Examples in the report illustrate the ways in which expanded liability laws like conspiracy, accomplice liability, constructive possession and asset forfeiture laws unfairly punish women for the actions of others. With little or no information to trade prosecutors, these women serve the longest sentences for the least involvement in drug offenses. 'This country can no longer ignore the devastation of families and communities when record numbers of women and mothers are locked up for drug offenses,' said Kirsten Levingston, Director of the Criminal Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. 'It's time to promote drug policies that work, to stop wasting money and to use our social systems to help women, not hurt them.'
For more about the report and the conference, check out the Fair Laws for Families website.
Utah is the latest state to see a push to further criminalize drug use by pregnant women. The Salt Lake Tribune reported on April 10, 2004 ( "Proposed Law Targets Pregnant Drug Users") that "A proposed law being discussed by the Statewide Association of Prosecutors targets drug-abusing pregnant women. Harming a fetus by using controlled substances should be a crime, according to Paul Boyden, executive director of the association, but instead of sending pregnant women to jail, they need to be forced into drug treatment. "We are concerned about the child -- these kids born dependent to drugs," said Boyden, who hopes to have a law before the state Legislature next year."
According to the Tribune, " The idea of adding the fetus to the child endangerment statute cropped up about two years ago in reaction to the number of pregnant women seen around meth labs, but drug treatment providers opposed the change, saying it would scare drug-dependent women from seeking help for fear of being jailed. Prosecutors, primarily in Salt Lake County, recently took up the discussion again. Boyden says a variety of other cases -- not [Melissa] Rowland's -- led to the new initiative to expand the child endangerment law. "It is not a result of it, but [Rowland] is certainly an extension of the same concerns," he said. Rowland, 28, was charged with murder on March 11 for allegedly delaying an emergency Caesarian section that may have saved her unborn twin boy. That charge was dropped Wednesday, when she pleaded guilty to two counts of child endangerment, a third-degree felony, in a plea agreement. She admitted to taking cocaine from Dec. 1 to Jan. 13 -- when she gave birth to a stillborn boy and a girl with cocaine and alcohol in her system. In charging Rowland with murder, prosecutors relied on a seldom-used statute from 1983 that added the term "including an unborn child" to Utah's definition of a homicide. That term is nowhere to be found in Utah's "Endangerment of a child or elder adult" statute."
There has been opposition to this idea. The Tribune reported that "at least one drug treatment provider says she has the same reservations expressed two years ago. "What we don't want to do is drive them away from treatment," said Valerie Fritz, president of the Utah Alcoholism Foundation, who still fears women will avoid treatment if they know authorities will be called. Fleming understands that concern and concedes the proposed change would mean "we might lose some here and there, but in fact we are going to get them eventually" through child welfare investigators or the police. Last year, 282 pregnant women received drug treatment in Utah, 4.81 percent of all women in those programs. The largest group, 152, comes from Salt Lake County. Pregnant women get priority placement in drug treatment by law, [Patrick] Fleming [from the Salt Lake County Div. of Substance Abuse Service] said."
Even the Tribune editorialized on April 13, 2004 ( "Treating Mothers"), "It is widely known among substance-abuse counselors and providers of pre-natal care that the quickest way to make sure that pregnant substance abusers shun all help is to threaten them with prosecution and/or loss of their child if they seek care. So the new law sought by the Statewide Association of Prosecutors to bring into treatment those who most need it -- women who are pregnant, alone and scared to death -- must be crafted with the greatest care."
The Tribune noted that "The issue is newsworthy, of course, because of the case of admitted drug user Melissa Ann Rowland, charged with murder after she refused urgent recommendations to undergo a Caesarian section and one of the twins she was carrying was later stillborn. That prosecution was widely denounced, in this space and elsewhere, as unnecessarily cruel to Rowland and horribly frightening to other women who might be browbeaten into making medical decisions under threat of prosecution if they guess wrong."
At the federal level, advocates for women are criticizing the newly-enacted Unborn Victims of Violence Act for similarly further criminalizing drug use by pregnant women. In an article published by Alternet on April 5, 2004 ( "The Pregnancy Police"), Lynn Paltrow wrote, "After the Senate passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act last week, President George W. Bush – the same man who supports relaxing rules for fetus-poisoning mercury – wasted no time signing it into law. Most of those opposing the Act, from pro-choice leaders to The New York Times editorial board, charge that it will undermine the right to choose abortion. In fact, while this fear is indeed warranted, those who are most likely to be harmed by this law are not women seeking abortions, but women who want to continue their pregnancies to term. The UVVA creates a federal law making it a crime to cause harm to a "child in utero," recognizing everything from a zygote to a fetus as an independent "victim," with legal rights distinct from the woman who has been attacked. More than 30 states already have similar laws on the books. In practice, these laws treat the pregnant woman as little more than collateral damage in an attack portrayed to the public as one directed against the fetus. Moreover, pregnant women in states with such laws are more likely to be punished for behaviors and conditions that are not criminally sanctioned for other members of society."
In her article, Paltrow draws particular attention to the application of the feticide law in South Carolina. She writes, "While South Carolina ranks number one in murders of women by men and last in the number of state dollars spent on drug treatment, the primary targets of the state's fetal protection laws are pregnant women and new mothers who need drug treatment and mental health services. As a result, scores of women in South Carolina who could benefit from treatment have been arrested, some escorted from hospitals in chains and shackles while still pregnant, others still bleeding just following a delivery. According to the Association for Addiction Professionals, women throughout the country "are second-class citizens when it comes to treatment for drug addiction and alcoholism." In America, we do not punish people for being sick. And courts generally do not permit the arrest of someone merely because they suffer the disease of alcoholism or other drug dependency. Nevertheless, relying on the argument that the fetus is an independent victim, hundreds of women nationwide have been arrested for continuing their pregnancies to term in spite of a drug or alcohol problem that for anyone else would be treated as a health problem. Underlying these arrests is the belief that being addicted to drugs or having another health problem during pregnancy is no different from a man shooting his pregnant girlfriend in the head. South Carolina's feticide law goes even further, and has also been used to punish a woman for experiencing a stillbirth. Regina McKnight was an indigent 22-year-old woman with a drug problem. She became pregnant and despite her problems had every hope of carrying her pregnancy to term, but the pregnancy ended in stillbirth. The hospital reacted not by offering her counseling or drug treatment, but rather by helping build a criminal case against her. Eventually she was convicted of murder."
For more on this topic and on the McKnight case, see Pregnant and Dangerous, by Katha Pollit, The Nation, April 8, 2004; "Criminalizing Motherhood, The Nation, Dec. 11, 2003; and "Top Court Rejects Baby Death Conviction Appeal", Reuters, Oct. 6, 2003.
A police raid on a high school in South Carolina has aroused concern and anger in a number of quarters. (To search the MAPINC archives for the latest news on this event, click here.) As the Columbia, SC State News reported on Nov. 9, 2003 ( "State Investigates School Drug Sweep"), "State police are investigating why officers charged into a crowded high school hallway with guns drawn in a drug sweep. Videotape from Stratford High School surveillance cameras showed students sitting on the floor Wednesday while officers with guns drawn looked for drugs. Charleston-area prosecutor Ralph Hoisington asked the State Law Enforcement Division to look into possible police misconduct in the operation. He called for the probe Friday after consulting with Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt. No drugs were found in the early-morning sweep that included 14 officers and one drug dog. Some students were cuffed during the raid. "I don't think there's anything wrong at all with law enforcement addressing a problem in a high school, but I have serious concerns about the need for restraining students and drawing weapons," Hoisington said. "I don't want to send my child to a school and find out guns are drawn on them. I certainly don't want them hog-tied as part of a sweeping investigation.""
(A video of the raid courtesy of MSNBC can be viewed by clicking here.
A number of local parents have complained. As the State reported, ""I'm absolutely outraged," said Danny Partin, whose stepson attends Stratford but was not in the hallway during the search. "This is supposed to be a free country, not a police state." Parent Nathaniel Ody went to the police department Friday afternoon to file a complaint. He said his son, a senior basketball player, was pulled from another part of the school Wednesday and placed in the hallway in restraints. He claims his son was compliant but was handcuffed anyway. "I'm appalled," he said. "To just take a bunch of innocent kids and put them in restraints, and then not even find anything, is ridiculous.""
The ACLU has taken an interest in the case as well. The Charlotte Observer reported on Nov. 8, 2003 ( "ACLU Criticizes High School Raid") that "Fourteen officers cordoned off the main hallway of Stratford High School in Goose Creek at 6:40 a.m. Wednesday to search for marijuana. No drugs were found. "Several officers did unholster their weapons in a tactical law enforcement approach," said Lt. Dave Aarons of the Goose Creek Police Department. "There was no force whatsoever. Everyone was very compliant." However, the way the search was conducted is illegal, said Graham Boyd, director of the drug policy project for the American Civil Liberties Union. "You absolutely cannot bring police with guns drawn into a school," he said. Boyd said police must suspect individual students of drug activity, then any action taken must target those suspects. He said investigators should have called individual suspected students to the principal's office to check their bags for drugs."
Research sponsored by NIDA on drug testing in the schools has finally been released, and the results are not surprising: Drug testing fails to have any impact on drug use by students in general, and also fails to deter drug use by male student athletes. (This finding is in stark contrast to the advance reports of this research, leaked to the NY Times in late 2002. See Federal Study: Urine Testing May Keep Student Athletes Off Easily-Detected Drugs, below for more info.)
The report, "Relationship Between Student Illicit Drug Use and School Drug-Testing Policies,", is published in the Journal of School Health in its April 2003 edition (Vol. 73, No. 4) (not the Journal of Adolescent Health, as reported by the Times in 2002). The Journal is the peer-reviewed publication of the American School Health Association.
According to the researchers:
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has announced the results of research to be published in 2003 on urine drug testing of student athletes. As the New York Times reported on Dec. 30, 2002 ( "Random Tests May Reduce Drug Use By School Athletes"), "Student athletes subject to random drug testing at an Oregon high school were about a fourth as likely to report using drugs as their counterparts at a similar school who were not tested, a study to be published next month in the Journal of Adolescent Health has found." According to the Times, "The yearlong study by researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University compared Wahtonka High School, where athletes were subject to random testing, and Warrenton High School, a demographically similar school near Astoria, where they were not. By the end of the school year at Wahtonka, only 5.3 percent of the 135 athletes said they were using illegal drugs, compared with 19.4 percent of the 141 athletes at Warrenton. The Wahtonka students were also only a third as likely to use performance-enhancing substances like steroids, the survey responses, which were confidential, indicated."
Problems with the testing policy, as well as with the research, have been noted. First, the Times reports that the Merry Holland, principal of Wahtonka High School, "said she believed the program had helped curb drug use. But the drug testing has also led some students to switch to substances not tracked, she said. 'There are a lot of parties with alcohol,' Ms. Holland said. 'If they want to stay with sports, and participate, they might switch to something they think is harder to detect.'"
This pilot study was the forerunner of a 3-year study involving 13 high schools. Earlier research was suspended because of serious problems. As the Times noted, "The larger study was to examine whether the threat of testing keeps students from drugs. It was suspended in its third year after a federal agency expressed concern about some methods used in its latter two years. The agency, the Office of Human Research Policy, said the study violated federal regulations by not properly obtaining informed consent from children and not protecting research subjects from coercive environments. The survey results used in the published study were not affected. The researchers responded this month with offers to ensure student confidentiality, to stop using principals and coaches to solicit participation and to end financial incentives for schools to participate. Dr. Goldberg said researchers are waiting to hear whether the study may be resumed." (Dr. Linn Goldberg, a lead researcher.)
Notably, none of the articles in the popular press about this yet-to-be-published research indicates how many positive test results the drug testing program found during the year. Since no urine tests were performed at the control school, the only data on drug use is self-reported, in response to surveys. For what it is worth, a survey of the general school population in these two schools shows that students at non-testing Warrenton were somewhat more willing to admit use of illegal drugs than were students at the urine testing school, Wahtonka: "Students who were not athletes were not subject to drug tests but did fill out questionnaires that indicated similar levels of drug use at the two schools - 32.2 percent at Warrenton and 26.6 percent at Wahtonka."
A Federal appeals court has upheld the Michigan state rule requiring welfare recipients to submit to urine drug tests in order to qualify for benefits. As the Detroit Free Press reported on Oct. 19, 2002 ( "Court OKs Drug Tests For People On Welfare"), "A three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said Michigan's use of mandatory testing to determine eligibility for public aid is neither an invasion of privacy nor an infringement on constitutional protection from unreasonable search and seizure. The random testing is a justified technique for protecting children, the public and tax dollars from abuse, the court said. The decision overturns a November 1999 injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts, who deemed the drug testing 'likely unconstitutional' and ordered it halted immediately." According to the Free Press, "Under the program, 20 percent of welfare recipients are randomly tested every six months. An individual who tests positive must undergo treatment. Welfare benefits can be denied for refusing to test or obtain treatment."
Critics denounced the decision. According to the Free Press, "The court's reasoning is flawed because it assumes welfare recipients are more likely to be drug users than the general population, said Wendy Wagenheim of the ACLU. 'It's already humiliating to be on welfare. This is just more humiliating,' she said." The paper reported that "'Our concern is this can really open up the door to uncontrolled government surveillance in every aspect of our lives,' the ACLU's Kary Moss said. 'What about students who take out student loans or taxpayers who take deductions?' The ACLU will request that the entire appeals court hear the case. 'We see the Fourth Amendment being whittled away,' Moss said. Robert Sedler, a Wayne State University law professor who argued on behalf of the ACLU and welfare recipients Tanya Marchwinski and Terri Konieczny, said the reversal was not a surprise. The three judges were all appointed by former President George Bush."
The program has support of the current governor, John Engler (R), and has been endorsed by both the candidates running to replace him, the Democrat flipflopping since the decision and now supporting the program. "Both gubernatorial candidates, Republican Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus and Democratic Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, said they would implement the program if elected in November. The winner will take office in January. While Granholm in the past has described the program as 'degrading and demeaning,' her spokesman Chris DeWitt said she would not seek to change it. Posthumus sees the testing as a means to get welfare recipients out of the 'cycle of dependence.' Gov. John Engler hailed the ruling."
In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of a school urine drug testing program on June 27, 2002. At issue was whether schools may require students who wish to participate in extracurricular activities, such as choir or band, to submit to a urine drug test. The Court's opinion in the case of Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls is available from the Supreme Court's website.
According to the Reuters news service ( "High Court Upholds School Drug Tests"), "The tests, required without any suspicion of drug use, covered students in grades 7 to 12 who sign up for such activities as cheerleading, choir, band, the academic team and the Future Farmers of America club. On the last day of their term, the justices overturned a U.S. appeals court ruling that struck down the policy in the Tecumseh School District in Pottawatomie County for violating constitutional privacy protections against unreasonable searches." According to Reuters, "A student who refuses to take the test or who tests positive more than twice cannot take part in competition for the rest of the school year. Students are tested at the start of the school year and then randomly throughout the year, with names drawn every month."
The fact that the program on its face is an ineffective waste of time which targeted a low-risk group of young people failed to sway the majority on the court. Indeed, according to Reuters, "Of the more than 500 students tested while the program was in effect during part of two school years, only three students, all athletes, tested positive. Two of the athletes also participated in other extracurricular activities. Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. Ginsburg said the program was unreasonable, capricious and even 'perverse' because it targets for testing a student population least likely to be at risk for illicit drugs and their damaging effects."
The Reuters story speculates that "The ruling could boost school drug testing. Over the past three years, about 5 percent of schools nationwide have required drug tests for student athletes while about 2 percent have tested students in other extracurricular activities." This certainly seems to be the case, as evidenced by the first-ever conference promoting school urine testing programs planned for July 18 2002, sponsored by the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (see the conference brochure online for details).
For additional information on the urine testing of public
school students, see:
Information on effective prevention programs is available online from a number of sources. Check out the Model Programs website maintained by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and its Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Also, read "Community Programs to Promote Youth Development" from National Academy Press, 2002, by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine. The contents are available free online or may be purchased through National Academy Press.
The international human rights organization
Human Rights Watch issued a report on impact of the Rockefeller
drug laws on June 18, 2002. The report,
Collateral Casualties: Children of Incarcerated Drug
Offenders in New York, presents a statistical analysis
of the hidden costs of New York's harsh Rockefeller laws.
Among the findings:
In a news release dated June 18, 2002, Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program, said "Disproportionately harsh drug sentences have not only led to the unnecessary incarceration of tens of thousands of low-level drug offenders, but also deprived thousands of children of their parents." Fellner continued: "Safeguarding communities and protecting families from drug trafficking and drug abuse are important public interests. But the means chosen to combat drugs should neither violate human rights nor inflict unnecessary collateral harm."
A copy of the full report is available as a PDF from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/usany/USA0602.pdf . The web version of the report is available from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/usany/ . For more information, check out this 1997 report by HRW on the Rockefeller laws, "Cruel and Unusual: Disproportionate Sentences for New York Drug Offenders." Also, HRW has this Focus Page on Reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
The Supreme Court unanimously upheld rules allowing public housing authorities to throw out entire families if even one family member commits a drug or alcohol violation -- even if the violation occurs far from the public housing unit. The court ruled 8-0 (Judge Breyer recused himself) in the cases which were combined in a single hearing, Department of Housing and Urban Development v. Rucker, 00-1770, and Oakland Housing Authority v. Rucker, 00-1781.
As reported by Reuters wire service on March 26, 2002 ( "High Court Upholds Housing Eviction Law"), "In an opinion written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the high court reinstated the Department of Housing and Urban Development's 'One Strike and You're Out' policy, which authorized public housing officials to evict innocent tenants. A U.S. appeals court in California barred enforcement of the policy, announced in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, on the grounds Congress never approved of such evictions when tenants were unaware of the drug activity." According to the report, "Rehnquist reversed the ruling, saying Congress addressed the issue by deciding not to require that the tenant must have knowledge of any drug-dealing activity."
For more information about this case, and the one strike policy, read this excellent Legal Times article, "One Strike For The Poor And How Many For The Rest Of Us?" The Supreme Court's decision can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking here, or it is also available as a webpage by clicking here. Also, you can download transcripts of the oral arguments by clicking here.
The US Supreme Court on March 19, 2002 heard arguments in the case of Earls v. Board of Education of Tecumseh Public School District (To see the appeals court decision click here.) As the Christian Science Monitor reported on March 19, 2002 ( "School Drug Testing Faces Test In Court"), "The case involves Lindsay Earls, who wanted to sing in the school choir, march in the school band, and compete on her school's academic team. Instead, the high school sophomore found herself in the girl's washroom with three faculty members listening intently outside a stall as she attempted to fill a plastic vial. It was part of a policy adopted by the school board in Tecumseh, Okla., requiring that all students in grades 7 to 12 seeking to participate in school activities submit to random drug tests. To Ms. Earls, now a freshman at Dartmouth College, the process was degrading and insulting. To the school board, it is an effective deterrent that helps teens overcome peer pressure to use drugs."
The Monitor noted that "'The best way to keep kids away from drugs is to get them involved in the choir and the band and these other activities. You don't want to set up obstacles to these activities, and that is what the school is doing,' says Graham Boyd, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, who is arguing the case on behalf of Ms. Earls." However, the justices seemed to sympathize with the schools. The Detroit Free Press reported on March 20, 2002 ( "Drug Tests, Kids' Rights Are Weighed By Justices") that "Several of the justices expressed strong sympathies for expanded urine screening of students -- suggesting the court will open the door for blanket drug tests for virtually all 24 million public secondary-school students nationwide. A decision striking down the policy could help strengthen the privacy rights of public school students."
On the one hand, as the Free Press reported, "Justice Sandra Day O'Connor agreed, saying the policy seemed to penalize students in extracurricular activities. Calling it 'absolutely odd,' she said the program is 'structured in a way that does little good.'" Yet, again according to the Free Press, "Justice Anthony Kennedy asked why a school should wait until drug use rises to dangerous levels before trying to fight the problem. He told Boyd, 'You're saying there must be a great crisis -- they should lose a few years of students before acting?' Kennedy dismissed objections to drug testing by suggesting that mandatory urine screening was little different from requiring students to wear a school uniform. Justice Stephen Breyer noted that the Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that a school can impose testing on athletes as a response not just to local problems but to nationwide drug use."
Report: Lifetime Ban On Welfare For Offenders Hits At Least 135,000 Innocent Children
A new report by The Sentencing Project examines the impact of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act's lifetime ban on the receipt of welfare benefits for felony drug offenders. The study reveals that an estimated 92,000 women and 135,000 children are affected by the ban, placing these families at increased risk of meeting basic needs of rent, food, and employment, and contributing to higher incidences of family dissolution and delinquency. According to the Sentencing Project's news release, "The report, Life Sentences: Denying Welfare Benefits to Women Convicted of Drug Offenses, is being released as Congress begins consideration of the reauthorization of welfare reform legislation."
A summary of the report is also available. According to it, "legislative action in the areas of welfare reform and the war on drugs have combined to produce negative consequences for many low-income women, with a disparate impact on African American and Latina women." The report notes that "Section 115 of the welfare reform act provides that persons convicted of a state or federal felony offense fo using or selling drugs are subject to a lifetime ban on receiving cash assistance and food stamps. No other offenses result in losing benefits. 42 states impose the ban in part or in full - 22 states deny all benefits, 10 have partial bans, 10 require drug treatment as a condition of receiving benefits - and eight states and the District of Columbia have opted out of the ban. The growing trend among states to modify or opt out of the ban reflects mounting recognition that a complete lifetime welfare ban is unsound public policy."
The report finds that:
The Sentencing Project report makes the following
Sandee Burbank, founder and national director of the Oregon-based drug prevention/education group Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, wrote an article appearing in the Winter 2001-2002 issue of Alternatives for Cultural Creativity. The article, "Dare To Tell Your Kids The Truth - Quandaries Of A Thinking Parent" is a thought-provoking and encouraging work that should be part of any parents' library.
Sandee was inspired to create MAMA because of her concerns over what to tell her own kids about drugs. As she writes, "I consider a loving, trusting relationship with my children to be one of the most important aspects of my life. My parents, in their effort to 'protect' me, told me half-truths and mistruths. How betrayed I felt when I learned that they had not always been honest with me! This was a feeling I did not want my own children to experience."
Her research led her to the University of Oregon and a drug education
specialist named Mark Miller.
"By 1980 I had my own children who looked to me to teach and
protect them. To prepare them for the decisions they would face
regarding these legal drugs I sought to better educate myself on
the subject. I needed good information and found it at the
University of Oregon, Drug Information Center (UODIC), directed
by Mark Miller. Working with the academic staff of the UODIC and
nationally ranked UO Health Education Dept., Mr. Miller developed
the nationally acclaimed Drug Consumer Safety Education (DCSE)
curriculum and presentations.
Sandee closes with this advice:
The Supreme Court will decide whether public middle and high schools may require students to undergo urine drug testing in order to be allowed to participate in extra-curricular, non-athletic activites. As the New York Times reported on Nov. 9, 2001 ( "Court To Rule On Drug Tests For School Groups"), "The decision, due before the current term ends early next summer, should clarify the court's 1995 ruling that upheld drug testing for student athletes but that left school districts uncertain about whether they could apply drug testing programs to other groups, or perhaps even to all students, as a way to deter drug use. The continuing legal uncertainty has limited the adoption of drug testing programs, which remain the exception rather than the rule in the country's 15,500 public school systems. Lower courts around the country have reached different conclusions on whether various drug testing programs, none of which require suspicion of individual wrongdoing, amount to unreasonable searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment."
The case is an appeal by the Tecumseh, OK school board of a suit
challenging the constitutionality of the testing policy. The
program was adopted in 1998 "for middle school and high school
students engaged in athletics and in other activities involving
interscholastic competition. These included most extracurricular
activities, among them the chorus, the band, the Future Farmers
and Future Homemakers of America, the cheerleading squad and the
academic team." The Times story continues:
The decision by the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals can be accessed by clicking here.
The Washington Post reported on Oct. 14, 2001 ( "Plan Targets All Drug Users' Newborns; City Would Investigate All Addicted Babies' Care") that the DC City Council has proposed "a major overhaul of the District's child protection law that would for the first time require D.C. social workers to open abuse and neglect investigations whenever babies are born addicted to drugs."
The DC Child and Familiy Services agency's new director, Olivia Golden, could not comment on the specific proposals. As the Post notes, "Golden took over the agency this summer after six years of federal court control. U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan agreed in May to return the agency to the District after city officials pledged to make a series of improvements to the child protection system, long considered one of the most dysfunctional in the nation. Some of those improvements have been made. They include the creation of a separate child protection agency and the end of a decades-long practice of dividing child abuse and neglect investigations between police officers and social workers." According to the Post, "Lawmakers are now reviewing the District's child protection laws, which have not been significantly revised in 24 years. The provision to protect drug-addicted babies is expected to be the most fiercely debated proposal when the legislation comes before the D.C. Council."
Supporters of this approach assert that it addresses a real problem. "'We can clearly say children are dying because their parents are using drugs,' said Thomas C. Wells, who helped craft the legislation as director of the Consortium for Child Welfare, a collection of D.C. child advocacy groups. 'This is one way all of us as a city can do something to help these children.' In a series of articles published last month, The Washington Post found that 11 newborns died from 1993 through 2000 after hospitals sent them home to drug-abusing parents and city social workers did not provide follow-up services." Critics, on the other hand, point out that needed services are still not being provided, and that real problems are being ignored. "But some child advocates and social workers say the proposal raises serious philosophical questions about when children should be separated from their parents. They also say the bill does not address a pregnant woman's alcohol use -- which can result in brain damage for the child -- and caution that the shortage of foster homes will be exacerbated if many drug-addicted babies are removed from their mothers. 'It's very complex,' said one social worker who requested anonymity, fearing retribution from agency managers for speaking out. 'People should think long and hard about finding more foster homes where we can raise these babies. Right now, we don't have any places to put them.'"
Washington State: Drug Policies, Racially Biased Enforcement Fuel Prison Growth, Continue "Cyclical Nature Of Poverty"
Census figures show that Washington state's prison population nearly doubled during the 1990s, according to a report in the Olympia (WA) Spokesman-Review on July 11, 2001 ( "High Black Prison Population Tied To Drug Policies") that "The 2000 Census counted 28,871 people in state and federal prisons, local jails, military jails and correctional halfway houses in Washington. The incarcerated population increased 98 percent, while total state population grew 21 percent over the same decade. Census data show that 4.6 percent of all black men in Washington are imprisoned. The figure falls to 2.2 percent for American Indians, 1.3 percent for Pacific Islanders and Hispanics, 0.7 percent for whites and 0.4 percent for Asians."
According to the Spokesman-Review, "Experts say drug policies explain the racial disparities. In Washington prisons alone, 22 percent of inmates were convicted of drug crimes. Law enforcement usually targets urban, black neighborhoods for drug busts -- despite equal amounts of drug use across racial lines." (Note: Actually, as Common Sense for Drug Policy pointed out a Public Education Campaign ad published in national magazines in early summer 2001 and reprinted in several African-American weeklies, whites are much more likely to use cocaine or other drugs than African-Americans, but African-Americans are more likely than whites to go to prison when charged with a drug offense. For a copy of the ad, click here.)
The Spokesman-Review reported:
The economic realities of the criminal justice system are also to blame, the story notes. "Rep. John Lovick of Mill Creek, a Washington State patrol sergeant and one of two black legislators in Washington, said that in his experience black defendants often don't get as good a defense as whites, for economic reasons. 'Money, at times, buys justice,' he said."
The effect on families from this baised enforcement is terrible. "'The overwhelming majority of those are fathers,' said Shirl E. Gilbert, president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Tacoma. 'You build, then, the continuing cyclical nature of poverty. ... The impact on the minority community is enormous.'" The story concludes that "The effect of the high incarceration rates for blacks is devastating, especially to black children, Lovick said#&058; 'This is what they see and hear and sometimes, they start to believe it. I try to be a positive role model, to let them know that frankly, there is hope.'"
Another New Study Refutes "Crack Baby" Myth
"The 'crack baby' phenomenon is overblown, according to a study that suggests poverty and the use of cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs while pregnant are just as likely as cocaine to cause developmental problems in children," according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association on March 28, 2001 ( "Study Challenges The 'Crack Baby' Myth," AP Wire). The study by Deborah A. Frank, MD, and colleagues at the Boston University School of Medicine and the BU School of Public Health, titled "Growth, Development and Behavior in Early Childhood Following Prenatal Cocaine Exposure: A Systematic Review," concludes "Among children aged 6 years or younger, there is no convincing evidence that prenatal cocaine exposure is associated with developmental toxic effects that are different in severity, scope, or kind from the sequelae of multiple other risk factors. Many findings once thought to be specific effects of in utero cocaine exposure are correlated with other factors, including prenatal exposure to tobacco, marijuana, or alcohol, and the quality of the child's environment."
In a commentary published in the same issue, Dr. Wendy Chavkin argues that policy works against the health of women, particularly the poor: "The situation for poor addicted women has not abated as treatment opportunities for them have been further compromised by recent changes in welfare policy. Since passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, states can exclude individuals with previous drug felony convictions from receiving cash assistance, and attendance at drug treatment programs does not count toward meeting the work requirement on which receipt of cash assistance is now conditioned. Further, drug and alcohol dependence no longer renders one eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), with the resulting loss of such income for approximately 108,000 SSI recipients and 31,000 Disability Insurance recipients as of December 1997."
Supreme Court Victory: 6-3 Decision Overturns Ferguson, Confirms Ability of Pregnant Women to Seek Health Care.
In a 6-3 ruling, the US Supreme Court found that drug testing for law enforcement purposes of pregnant women by public hospitals was unconstitutional. The Court overturned a lower court ruling in Ferguson et al. v. City of Charleston et al. on March 21, 2001. The original suit challenged a policy instituted at the Medical University Hospital in Charleston which had been developed at the urging of law enforcement. "The Court put public health ahead of drug enforcement," according to Kevin B. Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy. "Drug enforcement approaches to pregnant women were undermining prenatal care and the health of women, their fetuses and their newborn babies."
The policy of drug testing some women who came to Medical University Hospital of Charleston for prenatal care or to give birth was adopted in 1989, even though "In 1989 there was not a single drug treatment program, in or outpatient that existed to provide treatment for pregnant women or new mothers" available to these women. As a result of this policy, "Women were selectively searched through urine drug screening, for evidence of cocaine use. If they tested positive they were dragged out of this predominantly Black hospital in chains and shackles, evoking sharp modern images of black women in slavery. All but one of the thirty women arrested at the hospital was African American. The white nurse, Shirley Brown, who implemented and ran the program admitted that she believed that mixing of the races was against god's will."
An excellent history of the Ferguson case can be found by clicking here.
A South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in another case provided additional legal support for the incarceration policy in Charleston. As National Advocates for Pregnant Women explains in their factsheet on the Ferguson case, "On October 27, 1997, in a case called Whitner v. State, the South Carolina Supreme Court declared that viable fetuses are 'children.' As a result, the court concluded that a pregnant women who uses an illicit drug or engaged in any other behavior that might endanger the fetus can be prosecuted as a child abuser and sentenced to up to ten years in jail. It has been estimated that as many as 70-80 women have been arrested statewide as a result of policies of arrest beginning in 1989."
According to the
Center for Reproductive
Law & Policy, "Women's and children's
advocates agree that women should engage in behaviors that
promote the birth of healthy children. Nevertheless,
they recognize that a woman's substance abuse involves
complex factors that must be addressed in a constructive manner.
Punitive approaches fail to resolve addiction problems and
ultimately undermine the health and well-being of women and
their children. For this reason, public health groups
and medical organizations uniformly oppose measures that
treat pregnant women with substance abuse problems as
A comprehensive overview of state and federal policies regarding pregnant women and drug use, "Year 2000 Overview: Governmental Responses to Pregnant Women Who use Alcohol or Other Drugs", is available by clicking here.
Racial Profiling At Birth Part II: Drug Testing Newborns In Illinois
In Illinois, some hospitals have a policy of drugtesting newborn infants to determine drug exposure in the womb. According to the Chicago Reporter, "A baby can be tested for illegal drugs (in Illinois) immediately after birth. If the test is positive, hospital officials may keep the baby there while a DCFS caseworker interviews the familiy and visits the home to make sure the infant has a safe place to go."
The paper notes that African-Americans seem to be targeted by this testing more than whites. According to the Reporter ( "'Crack Babies': Black Children Defy Stereotypes, Face Bias"), "Between July 1, 1997, and June 30, 2000, DCFS (the Department of Children and Family Services) took 39 percent of 5,851 drug-exposed black babies into foster care, versus 27 percent of 1,035 white babies." Yet, "While black babies made up 78.6 percent of Illinois infants identified as drug-exposed in 1998, they accounted for about 20 percent of live births that year." The paper notes further that the US Department of Health and Human Services "reports that 6.6 percent of whites and 7.7 percent of blacks used illegal drugs" in 1999.
To find who was being tested, the paper surveyed 53 hospitals, public and private, in Cook County which deliver babies, of which only five responded -- "the rest either did not respond, told the Reporter they could not provide the information, or declined to do so." The paper found that "Two Chicago hospitals serving primarily black, low-income women said they test every baby, while two suburban hospitals that cater to primarily middle-class whites reported they test fewer than 2 percent."
A number of controversial programs have been developed to address the issue of drug use by pregnant women and new mothers. While well-intentioned, some of these approaches have had the negative effect of stigmatizing these women, and have actually prevented pregnant women who are drug users from seeking pre-natal care. This issue has become the subject of a Common Sense advertisement in national magazines and online.
One such program, known by the acronyn C.R.A.C.K., offers women $200 to be sterilized. As Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, wrote in an op-ed in January 2000, "There is cause for grave concern about this initiative because it promotes prejudice and perpetuates myths." A list of these myths, followed by the reality is below. Quotes are taken from the op-ed ( "Treatment, Not Sterilization, Is The Way To Help" ) as it appeared in the Houston Chronicle on Jan. 30, 2000.
A copy of the Common Sense for Drug Policy ad regarding pregnant women is available online, as well as the rest of the Common Sense for Drug Policy national advertising campaign.
Preventing Adolescent Drug Use
A new study by Columbia University's Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that parents are the key to kids avoiding drugs. The Chicago Tribune reported Feb. 24, 2001 that "Children who live with attentive parents stand a better chance of never using drugs than do those with 'hands-off' parents" according to the center's sixth annual report on attitudes of US teens on drug use, peer pressure and parental involvement. CASA released the report in conjunction with US Council of Mayors (click here for their news release). A copy of the report can be ordered or downloaded from the CASA website, or simply download a PDF copy by clicking here.
World Health Organization Study Shows US Youth More Likely To Use Marijuana Than Youth In Europe
The World Health Organization (WHO) held its European Ministerial Conference on Youth and Alcohol in Stockholm, Sweden in February 2001. Highlights from the conference included a report comparing use of alcohol and other drugs by youth in Europe with use by youth in the US.
The The New York Times reports that "Forty- one percent of 10th graders in the United States had tried marijuana, compared with 17 percent of those in Europe. And 23 percent of the students in the United States had used other illicit drugs, compared with 6 percent of the Europeans." The study was developed by the Council of Europe with the help of researchers at the University of Michigan's Monitoring The Future project, and compared results from the MTF with results from a European survey, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs (ESPAD).
(Results from the ESPAD 1999 can be downloaded as PDF files from from the World Health Organization European Youth and Alcohol Conference website, as well as from links found on this Background Brief.)
A number of resources exist to help families of drug war victims. Several organizations also work to help the victims and to research the impact. These include: