More than 100 D.C. high school students would be trained and paid to counsel fellow students on the dangers of drug abuse under a proposed $1 million drug prevention program to be operated by a private contractor and supervised by the D.C. Department of Human Services.
The program would be modeled after one that the school system already operates at a Northeast high school, leading some school officials to support the proposal but question whether the money should not go to the schools instead of to a contractor.
The program at Spingarn High, which is called Sports Activities, Not Drugs (SAND), trains students in peer counseling but does not pay them. Teachers and administrators in all city schools have been trained to counsel against drug abuse.
The Human Services proposal took as its models the SAND program and a health awareness project run by the city last year for summer youth employes, which also trained students to do peer group counseling, said Dr. Lonnie Mitchell, director of drug and alcohol programs.
The Human Services proposal calls for training 20 students in six city high schools, plus developing public service announcements, conducting research and giving courses on drug abuse to teachers, administrators and staff members.
A private contractor specializing in antidrug services would be more effective than school employes, Mitchell said.
"The whole point (of the proposal) is to have a comprehensive program for the schools," he said. "In previous years, there was a lot of duplication of services in the schools. There were several things going on under the category of drug education and prevention, but the schools didn't know who was going where."
James Guines, associate school superintendent for instruction, who, with Mitchell, headed a task force that drafted the Human Services proposal, said: "Maybe the DHS should give us the $1 million, but they are the accountable agency for drug prevention. Our area is education. I'd rather have the experts working with us."
The Department of Human Services program would not duplicate school programs, Guines said.
"We don't have any substance abuse public service announcements or parental support groups," he said. "The DHS program will do those kinds of things for us."
Board of Education President R. David Hall and other school officials have expressed concern that the Human Services contract might become "a political contest."
"I hope the city selects the very best contractor for the job, because drug education is very crucial for young people," said Hall, who cited the alarming increase in the number of youths now using drugs, particularly PCP phencyclidine , a cheap potent liquid usually mixed with marijuana and smoked.
According to D.C. police and school statistics, about 650 school-aged youths were arrested for drug- or alcohol-related crimes from 1984 to 1985. Currently, 337 school-aged youths are being treated for drug use by city health officials.
The city began soliciting bids for the new program in October and closed the bidding last month, Mitchell said. Mitchell declined to say yesterday how many bids had been received or give the names of the bidders on the one-year, $937,000 contract. He said that the contract procedure was months behind schedule and that he was uncertain when the contract would be awarded.
According to school sources close to the proceedings, however, about a dozen organizations submitted bids, including RAP Inc., a drug rehabilitation program. The group submitted a bid in conjunction with another grass-roots group called the Washington Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, spokesmen for those groups said.