The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1994 (SDFSCA) is federal legislation designed to help school districts create safe, disciplined, drug-free learning environments. In 1989, President George H. W. Bush and the governors of all 50 states recognized the need for safe schools and set goals to help the United States achieve this in the coming years. When President William J. Clinton took over the White House in 1993, he continued to work on these goals. His administration created goals aimed at achieving schools that were free of the presence of weapons and drugs. The Clinton administration recognized that teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn to their full potential in an unsafe and undisciplined school environment.
Education reform was a key focus during the Clinton administration, as U.S. leaders understood that successful education of citizens is necessary for the country to compete in a global marketplace. Students need to be proficient in subjects such as mathematics and science; for this to happen, however, a safe learning environment for students to study in is required. Students need to be able to come to school without fear. If they worry about the presence of weapons and drugs everyday, or get involved in the use of drugs or weapons, students will not be able to focus properly on their studies. The U.S. Department of Education has worked closely with state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) to create safer school environments. President Clinton’s signing of the SDFSCA bill in 1994 represented a huge step toward achieving these goals.
The SDFSCA provides financial assistance to 97% of all school districts in the United States, delivering funds used for more than 40 million students. These funds are a huge source of support for drug and violence prevention in schools. The SDFSCA also distributes funds to states depending on the state’s school-aged population and relative share of Title I funds. Governors spread out these funds for numerous causes. Much of the additional funds are used for preschoolers, school dropouts, juveniles, and teenage parents. The governor of each state must also use a portion of the funds to work with law enforcement agencies. For example, schools often bring in law enforcement officials to educate students on drugs and weapons.
Furthermore, SEAs must distribute their SDFSCA funds to LEAs based on rates of alcohol and drug use among youths, arrests and convictions of youths, illegal gang activity, and other issues in a particular locality. The SDFSCA has specific sections on accountability, mandating that SEAs and LEAs must establish measurable goals for their drug and violence prevention programs. These agencies must also decide how they will report any progress made. When LEAs apply for SDFSCA funding from SEAs, SEAs can reject their applications or place restrictions on the use of given funds if planned activities do not follow the goals of the SDFSCA. SEAs must monitor the activities of LEAs and provide assistance when needed.
The SDFSCA authorizes additional national programs that work to create safe, disciplined, and drug-free schools. One such program is seeking to develop alternatives to expulsion. When a student is expelled for the possession of drugs or weapons, the SDFSCA wants to provide education for these students in a different way. Another program is looking into the pros and cons of establishing school uniform policies. The Department of Education, working with the Center for Handgun Control, had agreed to distribute videos that deal with the consequences of youths handling handguns. The Department of Education has also agreed to work with the Department of the Treasury to trace handguns and eliminate sources of weapons. These programs are just a few examples of many being implemented to achieve safer school environments.
Approximately a year after President Clinton signed the SDFSCA legislation into law, he made a statement announcing that significant progress has been made in schools throughout the United States. He acknowledged that the country still needs good parents and supportive communities to achieve even more, but praised his administration for its commitment to ensuring safety in schools and on the progress it has achieved thus far. Subsequent presidents have continued to support the legislation and have continued funding for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
- Black, S. (2004). Safe schools don’t need zero tolerance. Education Digest, 70(2), 27-31.
- Casella, R. (2003). Zero tolerance policy in schools: Rationale, consequences, and alternatives. Teachers College Record, 105(5), 872-893.
- Modzeleski, W. (1996). Creating safe schools: Roles and challenges, a federal perspective. Education and Urban Society, 28(4), 12-23.
- Stader, D. (2006). Zero tolerance: Safe schools or zero sense? Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 6(2), 65-75.