Press Release

Back to School: What Parents, Teachers and Administrators Need to Know About Drug Education and Zero Tolerance Policies

New Editions of DPA Publications Beyond Zero Tolerance and Safety First Offer Pragmatic Drug Education Strategies and Policies

Teleconference Thursday (1pm EST/10am PST) to Feature Leading Experts, Parents, and Drug Educators

<p>Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Anthony Papa 646-420-7290</p>

As the school year kicks off, two DPA publications are offering reality-based approaches to drug education and school discipline for parents, teachers and administrators that provide guidance on:

  • How parents can foster open and honest dialogue with their children around the risks and consequences of drug use
  • How an interactive, participatory high school drug education and student assistance program operates
  • How restorative practices work effectively in high schools and what steps are required for their adoption and use

Beyond Zero Tolerance: A Reality-Based Approach to Drug Education and School Discipline is a comprehensive, humane and cost-effective approach to high school drug education. A new, updated edition was released this month.

Most high schools in the U.S. address student drug use with “zero tolerance” policies that may include expulsion, suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities, and even arrest.  Proponents of these policies argue that harsh punishment will deter most youth from engaging in alcohol and other drug use – yet national surveys show us each year that rates of teen drug use have remained consistent over the years, while graduation rates are disturbingly low.

Beyond Zero Tolerance advocates  honest, interactive drug education programs to assist students confronting drug use, and those exhibiting patterns of substance misuse and addiction. The approach replaces punitive measures with restorative practices, enabling students to acknowledge the harms they have caused, guide them in making amends, be re-accepted into the school community, and – most importantly – stay in school.

“School administrators in California and across the country are in a quandary about ways to both reduce drug abuse and prevent truancy, which are leading to suspensions, expulsions, dropouts and ultimately a pipeline to the criminal justice system,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Beyond Zero Tolerance provides educators with tools for implementing humane and effective drug education, at minimal cost, and using their own faculty. As schools look for honest, science-based, affordable drug education – and opposition to the school-to-prison pipeline gathers momentum – the time is right for comprehensive drug education reform.”

"Young people who are engaged in risky behavior (drug selling or illicit drug taking) need love, support, information, education and guidance; not expulsion, arrests and jail cells.” Lyman added.

Meanwhile, DPA’s companion publication Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs provides parents with the tools needed to evaluate and discuss strategies for protecting their teenagers from substance misuse and addiction. Since the original publication of the booklet, which was recently updated last year, more than 350,000 copies have been distributed worldwide.

“Drug education motivated by fear and lacking in credibility weakens young people’s confidence in law enforcement, parents and other adults,” said Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum, author of Safety First. “Whether at home or at school, we need reality-based approaches to drug education that foster open, honest dialogue about the risks and consequences of drug use. Teens need drug education that respects their intelligence and gives them the tools to stay safe and healthy.”

“No parent wants his or her teenager to use drugs,” added Dr. Rosenbaum. “But to prevent adolescents who do experiment from falling into abusive patterns, we need to create fallback strategies that focus on safety.”

What: Press Teleconference

When: Thursday, September 12th at 1pm EST/10am PST

How: Contact Tony Newman for more information: 646-335-5384


  • Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum, director emerita of DPA’s San Francisco office and author of Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs
  • Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance
  • Catherine and Doug Snodgrass, parents of an autistic son who was recently targeted in an undercover drug sting at his school
  • Chuck Ries, founder of the UpFront program
  • Ted Wachtel, president and founder of the International Institute for Restorative Practices
Real Drug Education