Safe Schools Today – Calendar


8-9, New York City. Understanding and Preventing Youth Violence: From Bullies to Bullets. Sponsored by the Center for Social and Emotional Education. Contact: (212) 707-8799 or

26-28, Las Vegas. Governor’s Conference on School Safety. Sponsored by the Nevada Division of Emergency Management and the Nevada Department of Education. Contact: Harlan Ashby, (775) 684-8649 or


3-5, Atlanta. Mobilizing for a SafeUSA: A Leadership Conference to Reduce Violence and Injury in America. Sponsored by SafeUSA, an alliance of public and private organizations dedicated to public safety. Contact: (888) 252-7751.

11, Rankin, Miss. Mississippi Institute for School Safety Threat Assessment Protocol Workshop. Sponsored by the state’s Office of Safe and Orderly Schools. Contact: (601) 359-1028.

17-19, San Antonio, Texas. Eighth Annual Regional Conference on Improving America’s Schools. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Contact: (800) 522-0772, ext. 1022.


16, Oxford, Miss. Mississippi Institute for School Safety Threat Assessment Protocol Workshop. See Dec. 11 for more details.


Study faults popular anti-drug efforts in schools

Half of all teen-agers attend a school at which drugs are sold, used, or kept, according to a national organization that fights drug abuse.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released a report in September detailing drug use and availability among teens.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that, by the time students complete high school, 47 percent have smoked marijuana, 24 percent have used another illicit drug, and 81 percent have drunk alcohol. They also estimate that 70 percent have smoked cigarettes.

The Columbia group’s survey of 1,000 students found that half of all teen-agers said their school was not drug-free, meaning that students keep, use, or sell drugs on school grounds. Sixty percent of high school students said there were drugs on campus; 30 percent of middle school students said the same.

The random telephone survey of students age 12-17 was conducted Oct. 20-Nov. 5, 2000 by QEV Analytics. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

The percentage of teen-agers who say there are drugs on campus has actually dropped since 1998, said Joseph Califano, a former secretary of health, education, and welfare, who heads the group. But Califano said the high number of schools in which drugs are present is still unacceptable.

“When parents start to feel as strongly about drugs in schools as they do about asbestos in schools, we’ll take a giant step forward,” he said.

Califano said national efforts to keep schools drug-free have failed, primarily because drug-prevention lessons don’t address the factors that lead students to experiment with drugs. Anti-drug programs abound, he said, but many aren’t based on sound science and few are compatible with others.

Califano said zero-tolerance policies, by which students caught with drugs are expelled or suspended from school, are a double-edged sword, since they send a clear no-use message but can also encourage parents and friends of drug users to keep quiet out of fear the user will be punished severely.

Since 1996, the group’s annual survey has consistently shown that only about one-third of 17-year-olds would report a drug user or seller at school.

He said more money should be spent on school counselors, teacher training, and treatment for drug-using students, and that parents should be encouraged to play a more active role in their children’s schools.


Survey: After-school programs help curve violence and crime

A new survey from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, an anti-crime organization made up of more than 1,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and victims of violence, shows that 86 percent of respondents support the expansion of after-school and school-readiness programs because, they believe, such initiatives help curb violence and crime.

In fact, 64 percent of respondents said programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers ( and Head Start ( are more effective in reducing violence than “security measures like metal detectors, surveillance, and policing in and around schools.”

Meanwhile, in a separate poll of teenagers, the group found that children left unsupervised more than three days a week during the peak hours of juvenile crime (between the end of the school day and 6:00 p.m.) are three times more likely than their peers to commit crimes, smoke cigarettes, or have sex—and four times more likely to become a victim of a crime or use drugs.

A majority of teens reported there are too few after-school programs in their community and they would likely participate in an after-school program that offered interesting activities.


Smaller schools are safer, study says

Size does matter when it comes to the quest for better student performance, according to a new national report that studied the advances of 22 small schools.

School systems will spend about $84 billion in the next two years on construction, and the report advises using the money to break up large schools into smaller parts—or simply create schools with fewer students. The study also reported that schools sharing space with other organizations, such as a community college or a museum, often outperform their unconnected counterparts.

Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota and coauthor of the study, said researchers examined standardized-test scores as well as qualitative measures such as school climate. In smaller schools, students and teachers are more likely to interact and student misconduct is less, he said.

The 68-page report, titled “Smaller, Safer, Saner, Successful Schools” and financed by the U.S. Department of Education, is available online at


Kansas: High school memorials taken down under district’s safety policy

Officials at Russell High School in Russell, Kan., have cited safety concerns as the reason they removed memorials to 14 students and former students who have died. But the move isn’t sitting well with some members of the community.

“Some students in school who feel like they don’t have much going for them—they see this nice plaque up for a student,” said assistant superintendent David Couch. A student could draw the conclusion that “this is some way I can get remembered,” Couch said.

The 14 pictures, plaques, and other items meant to honor the students were removed over the summer after an addendum to the school district’s crisis intervention plan called for the removal of memorials that could glorify death and possibly encourage suicide.

The new policy also was meant to eliminate any notion of discrimination on the basis of a survivor’s financial ability to memorialize a loved one and to take away any reminders of a loss that could make students uncomfortable.

“Schools change,” said Russell High School Principal Larry Barnard, “and because they change, we have to change with that.”

A memorial committee has met to discuss alternatives, such as photographing the memorials, placing the pictures in a wall panel, and displaying them with the graduating classes. But to the family members of those whose memorials were removed, the new policy is unfair.

Irene Jepsen, whose daughter Dena, a 1983 Russell High graduate, died in a car crash in 1988 while a student at North Texas State University, said she’s “very hurt” by the district’s actions.

“I think it’s disgusting. I think it’s horrible. It’s not something that should have happened at all,” Jepsen said

Jim Rodman, a crisis consultant for the Educational Service Center in Greenbush, said the district’s concern has a real basis and that many schools are shying away from memorials. Rodman consulted with Russell administrators on the issue.

“There is certainly information out there that talks about the potential of the … over-memorialization and glorifying of an adolescent suicide, leading to copycats or a cluster effect,” he said, adding that the research is specific to teen suicide.

He suggested memorials be moved to other public places such as churches or libraries where attendance is not mandated.


Washington: Paint, glue fumes, aggravated by heat, made school children ill

Paint fumes, heat, humidity, and lack of fresh airflow were factors in the bad air that sent 16 students and a teacher in Washougal, Wash., to the hospital, a health investigator reported.

Dr. Karen Steingart of the Southwest Washington Health District reached that conclusion after reviewing hospital records and reports from medics and environmental safety experts who rushed to Canyon Creek Middle School Sept. 27.

A total of 214 students and 14 Canyon Creek employees were sent home after emergency workers responded to a 911 call, Skamania County Undersheriff Ed Powell said. Some fainted, others reported dizziness.

Steingart said it was clear that many students were reacting to the new-building fumes. She recommended that airflow into the school be increased to ensure that no odors or fumes remained, and school officials said that was done.

School officials conducted a walkthrough of the middle school and adjacent Cape Horn Sky Elementary School with hazardous material experts and determined it was safe for students and staff to return.

School Board member Thomas Huffman, who said he worked in construction for the Bonneville Power Administration for many years, defended the decision to open the school a week after construction was completed and said the ventilation system was functioning properly.

“What happened there is very, very common in new construction,” Huffman said. “There is always dust that collects in the ductwork from construction and cleanup. When you get combinations like heat and humidity,” that can affect air quality temporarily, he added.