|The Editorial Page
© 1999 Copyright
Letters and E-Mail
October 28, 1999
Many schools using ineffective, untested drug, violence prevention programs
October 5, a front-page article in your paper summarized a new statewide report on crime in Kentucky schools. To prepare the report, Eastern Kentucky University's new Center for School Safety compiled data from all school districts in Kentucky.
I am responding to your Oct. 7 editorial regarding this report in which you noted that most schools have responded aggressively to security concerns by locking doors, using metal detectors and employing security officers. You then asked a pertinent question: If 94 percent of the students are participating in drug and violence prevention programs, why are there 4,000 assaults, 25,000 fights and 10,000 crimes committed on school grounds?
The question, which you failed to ask, and which the report failed to cover was: What types of drug and violence prevention programs are being used in our schools? It is more important than ever that schools use a prevention program that has been proven to work.
Too many of today's prevention programs are based on hunches and guesses about what might work. While many programs may claim to be effective, very few have been documented to reduce the use of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs. Unfortunately, this means that many schools are using untested, outdated, or ineffective prevention programs and many dollars are wasted.
The Regional Prevention Center, a service of Four Rivers Behavioral Health, at 2850 Adams Street in Paducah, has been charged by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Division of Substance Abuse, with developing programming to prevent alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse. The center covers a nine-county region emphasizing youth substance-abuse prevention by focusing our efforts on science-based prevention programs. "Science-based" means that needs are determined (by survey) and a program is selected that best fits those needs. Follow-up surveys are performed to evaluate if those needs are being met.
In addition, the only programs used have been extensively evaluated in major federal studies and have been shown to dramatically reduce substance use. Although these programs promote drug education and awareness, the primary focus is on increasing psycho/social skills (interpersonal communication, self-esteem, coping with anxiety, dealing with shyness, initiating social contacts and assertiveness training). While these programs have not been tested regarding violence prevention, leading researchers agree that the programs have great potential in preventing violence.
Curriculum programs such as Botvin Life Skills, Project Alert, Creating Lasting Family Connections, Reconnecting Youth and Second Step that have the research data to back up their potential also take a great deal of time, energy, money and political will to implement. Serious policy change is required to go from stopgap and piecemeal efforts to the consistent use of science-based programs. Effective programming is not a quick fix. Real solutions take time.
Six school districts in western Kentucky have joined efforts to receive a sizable grant to reduce youth substance use (McCracken, Graves, Livingston, Carlisle and Ballard counties as well as Mayfield Independent). They now provide proven prevention programs to their middle-school students. These schools are rising to meet the challenge. We encourage others to do the same because our children are at stake.
Dog fighting, cockfighting cruel to animals, but boxing is legal sport
Our government outlaws dog fighting and cockfighting as cruelty to animals. Yet, it sanctions boxing as a sport to beat people up. Under the law, it's called assault and battery. Legally, it's called a sport. Does our government have its head on straight?
WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
Here are the addresses and phone numbers of your officials in Washington:
U.S. REP. ED WHITFIELD
U.S. SEN. JIM BUNNING
U.S. SEN. MITCH McCONNELL
U.S. REP. DAVID PHELPS
U.S. SEN. RICHARD DURBIN
U.S. SEN. PETER FITZGERALD
Accountability the key to plant cleanup
A Senate hearing may have supplied the missing element in the Department of Energy's cleanup program at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant - accountability.
The most notable theme to develop in the Senate Appropriations Committee's energy and water development subcommittee hearing was the need for the DOE to stop shuffling paper and evaluating reports and move forward with the cleanup of massive environmental contamination at the plant site.
Kentucky's top elected officials - Gov. Paul Patton and U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning - forcefully expressed their concerns about the pace of the cleanup. But they did more than wring their hands; they talked specifically of the consequences that could occur if the DOE fails, as Gov. Patton put it, "to do right by Paducah."
The energy agency and its private contractors have spent 10 years and $400 million without making any discernible progress in cleaning up or removing chemical waste and radioactive materials stored at the site. But the cleanup has been moved from the bureaucratic back burner now that Congress, reacting to allegations that over the past four decades plant workers were exposed to high levels of contamination, is zeroing in on DOE's performance.
Bunning described the agency's failures in blunt terms. "Not one contaminated drum has been removed," he said. "Not one ounce of spent uranium has been converted. And the plume of contaminated waste that includes PCBs continues to flow toward the Ohio River.
"Something needs to be changed, and we cannot wait another day to do it."
It's clear that Kentucky officials will have to use the political equivalent of a big stick to ensure the federal government gets the message about what Bunning called the "betrayal" of the citizens of Paducah.
The energy department spent $400 million to produce a stack of reports on the Paducah site. It's quite capable of wasting more time and a great deal more of the taxpayers' money doing what agency officials call "preliminary analysis" of the contamination.
But Patton, McConnell, Bunning and 1st District Congressman Ed Whitfield are supplying some needed motivation for DOE officials.
During Tuesday's hearing, McConnell raised the possibility of taking away DOE's authority over the cleanup and giving oversight responsibilities to another federal agency. This is no idle threat: As one of the leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate, McConnell has the power to hold DOE accountable.
Patton said he is prepared to take the agency to court if it does not make significant progress on the cleanup. This is no idle threat, either: The DOE has a contractual obligation to the state of Kentucky to complete the cleanup by 2010. We'd like to see agency officials try to come up with a legal defense for a decade of near total inaction on cleaning up the plant site.
Congressman Whitfield is focusing on separating Paducah and Portsmouth, Ohio, from the DOE's Oak Ridge, Tenn., office, which has been less than aggressive in dealing with environmental problems outside Oak Ridge. Like McConnell, Whitfield can use legislation, if needed, to jerk the agency's chain.
The political drive to hold DOE accountable for the Paducah cleanup already may be concentrating the minds of some of the agency's bureaucrats. Elizabeth Huntoon, an assistant secretary at DOE, told the Senate committee she expects the "drum mountain" at the site to be cleaned up by the end of 2000 - two years ahead of schedule.
McConnell pointedly observed that this is remarkable news. "If that can be accomplished, it would be a visible sign of progress that I think everyone would applaud," he said.
The senator also said he would be watching to see if DOE meets its self-imposed deadline for cleaning up the contaminated drums.
Scrutiny and accountability are the keys to ensuring the DOE cleans up the uranium enrichment plant site and removes the environmental hazards that have threatened this area for far too long. The state's leaders must dog the bureaucrats' steps, and keep up the pressure after the media spotlight has shifted away from Paducah.