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Because of your concern that substance abuse among our nation's youth poses serious dangers to society, you asked us to review implementation of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986. A major purpose of the act was to help schools and communities establish drug abuse education and prevention programs. Specifically, you asked that we

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identify how school districts use funds provided under the act, examine the extent to which educational programs include alcohol

abuse, • determine how school districts assess program effectiveness, • obtain students' views on the drug education provided, and identify state and local program officials' views on the Department of Education's program direction.

Our testimony on these issues before your committee in Cleveland on February 13, 1990, was based on preliminary work in Ohio. This report discusses our work in five states (California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas) and the District of Columbia. These jurisdictions accounted for $330 million, or 30 percent of the total program funds allocated to states and the District of Columbia since the program's inception in October 1986.

To respond to your request, we obtained information from the state edu-
cation agencies in the five states. In addition, we contacted each state's
largest school district-Los Angeles, Dade County (Miami), Detroit,
Cleveland, and Houston—as well as the public school system in Wash-
ington, D.C. In these six school districts, we discussed the Drug-Free
Schools program with principals, other school personnel, and students at
18 schools. We also obtained information from the Department of Edu-
cation and reviewed program evaluation and other research literature
on “what works” in drug education. (See app. I.)

Results in Brief

School districts are using a wide range of approaches in their Drug-Free Schools programs. But, little is known at the local, state, or national level about what approach works best or how effectively the various

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programs and curricula reduce or prevent drug and alcohol abuse among students.

Overall, the six districts we visited used more than 50 percent of the funds for student assistance (primarily counseling) programs geared to high-risk students' in junior and senior high school. They used the remaining funds primarily for training teams of school officials to develop drug prevention programs or on classroom curricula and materials. Each district covered alcohol abuse in its drug education programs. Districts often were unable to provide the Drug-Free Schools programs to all schools or all students within a school. The reason, they said, was that not enough teachers had yet been trained to teach drug education courses or new programs yet been fully implemented.

Evaluations of drug education programs generally have lacked needed scientific rigor and as a result, offer little information on what works. But judging from our discussions with students and principals in 18 schools, the message of drug and alcohol dangers is reaching the children. In the opinion of both students and principals, drug and alcohol abuse among school-age children would be worse without the federally funded Drug-Free Schools programs. Overall, state and local program officials were satisfied with the Department of Education's program direction.

Background

The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act provides federal financial assistance to establish programs for drug abuse education and prevention. Programs funded are to convey the message that the use of illegal drugs and the abuse of other drugs and alcohol are wrong and harmful.

Of the $1.3 billion the Congress has appropriated since passage of the act in 1986, $1.1 billion was distributed to states in the form of grants. These grant funds, which first became available to states in fiscal year 1987, are allotted to each state according to its share of the nation's

'Individuals under 21 years of age who are at high risk of becoming, or who have been, drug or
alcohol abusers. For example, they may have committed violent or delinquent acts or attempted sui-
cide, or may be the child of a drug or alcohol abuser.
2of this amount, $632 million had been distributed to states through school year 1989-90 and the
remaining $459 million will be distributed for use in school year 1990-91.

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