Pubdate: Thu, 15 Aug 2002
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2002 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Authors: Adam Wiggins, Robert Sharpe


Editor, the News-Sentinel:

I've got a suggestion on how to improve the zero-tolerance policy of
Knox County schools: Get rid of it. Destroying the futures of kids who
make poor choices doesn't benefit anyone.

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey, over half of all high
school seniors have tried an illegal drug. Denying these students the
chance to graduate from high school and grow up to become productive
members of society is not in our best interest.

Most teenagers outgrow their youthful indiscretions involving drugs.
An arrest and criminal record, on the other hand, can be life
shattering. After admitting to smoking pot but not inhaling, former
president Bill Clinton opened himself up to "soft on drugs" criticism.

And thousands of Americans have paid the price in the form of
shattered lives. More Americans went to prison or jail during the
Clinton administration than during any previous administration.

As an admitted former drinker and alleged illicit drug user, President
George W. Bush is also politically vulnerable when it comes to drugs.
While youthful indiscretions didn't stop Clinton or Bush from assuming
leadership positions, an arrest surely would have.

The short-term health effects of politically incorrect drugs like
marijuana are inconsequential compared to the long-term effects of
criminal records. Drug abuse is bad, but the zero-tolerance drug war
is worse.

Robert Sharpe

Program Officer

Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C.

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Bravo to a Knox County Chancery Court judge for ordering the Knox
County Board of Education to revise its zero-tolerance policy ("Revise
zero tolerance, schools told," July 26).

Brought on the coattails of the overzealous and ineffective "Just Say
No" campaign of the '80's, zero tolerance causes far more harm than it

Young adults, by nature, explore the boundaries of their world. This
has always been true, and it will never, ever change.

Zero tolerance simply causes those teens who are unlucky enough to get
caught to face ruination of their young lives.

How many of us experimented with marijuana in high school, yet grew up
to be productive, drug-free citizens?

What if every one of us who had smoked pot had been kicked out of

I can't see how that would be a productive way to raise our children.

Adam Wiggins

Pasadena, Calif.
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