A task force organized by Montgomery County students after a series of drug arrests last year on high school campuses yesterday recommended a broad program stressing educational rather than punitive solutions to curb drug abuse in county schools.
The task force's report is the culmination of a year-long effort that the students launched when the controversial drug raids were at their height last fall. About 400 students were arrested during the crackdown, which has not been repeated this year.
The 29-member group included students, teachers, parents, police and representatives of various groups such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. It made its report in Rockville yesterday to Police Chief Bernard D. Crooke, County Council President Neal Potter and interim School Superintendent Edward Andrews.
The recommendations will be voted on by the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils, the group of high school student councils that commissioned the task force. The school administration also is studying the recommendations and will report to the school board on the cost of putting them into effect.
Among the panel's recommendations were that the county should set up a drug and alcohol resource center; nurses should be hired to staff school health centers full time, and more hallway monitors should be added to patrol schools.
The task force also called for steps to protect teachers from lawsuits if they have caught students with drugs.
"The recommendations are not designed to make schools into concentration camps," said school spokesman Ken Muir. "But clearly they are saying everybody has to do things to make schools as drug-free as possible. Teachers have a disciplinary role."
Many teachers have complained in the past of being forced into the role of classroom policemen.
The report also urges that the school board policy on drug abuse be clarified to protect students who willingly seek help for drug problems.
"It's not a get-tough policy," said task force cochairman Alan Rodbell of the county police youth division. "The campus is no place for drugs, but we're also saying that if You're looking for assistance you don't have to fear punishment."
The main emphasis of the task force report is on education. The recommendations urge an expanded school curriculum to include decision-making courses for students and educational seminars for police, school staff and teachers.
"Drug abuse is one of a number of society's problems that have ended up in the laps of schools," said Mike Michaelson, administrative assistant for student affairs.