Drug-Free School Zone

A Drug-free school zone is an area inclusive of any property used for school purposes by any school, whether or not owned by such school, within 1,000 feet of any such property, and within or immediately adjacent to school buses.

It is any specific location in the community, especially an area where children congregate, that the citizens perceive as being a place where drug trafficking or alcohol availability problems exist, and the citizens decide to take action.

Drug-free zones around schools offer communities one way to give students a place where they can play and talk without being threatened by drug dealers and drug users. Federal law and many state and local laws increase penalties for drug-related activities in drug-free school zones. The penalties vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in terms of whether they stand alone as separate offenses or serve as a sentencing enhancement and in terms of the defenses available.

The No Child Left Behind Act amended the Safe and Drug-Free Schools & Communities Act (SDFSCA).  As part of the SDFSCA, Congress allocated millions to school districts to help them establish programs to prevent the use of alcohol and other drugs, but there are no accountability standards to accompany the money.

The purpose of the SDFSCA is to support programs that:

  • Prevent violence in and around schools;
  • Prevent the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs
  • Involve parents and communities
  • Are coordinated with related Federal, State, school, and community efforts and resources to foster a safe and drug-free learning environment that promotes student academic achievement.

Six Steps to Take

  • Build a drug-free school zone coalition that includes representatives from law enforcement, schools, parent groups, civic clubs, youth groups, businesses, religious institutions, local government, drug treatment centers, other social service agencies, public housing authorities, and the courts.
  • Mobilize the community—Talk to key people, build partnerships, assess the community’s drug problems.
  • Create a shared vision of a safe and drug-free environment for children..  Set goals and design strategies to meet them.
  • Establish the drug-free school zone by researching laws and establishing formal partnership agreements with school administrators, city officials, and law enforcement.  Name a coordinator, measure and map the zone, post signs (check with police and city officials regarding wording and placement) and publicize the project.  Kick off with special school assemblies, a parents’ organization meeting, a proclamation, and press conference.
  • Celebrate successes with award ceremonies, family events, posters, publicity, and T-shirts.  Have young people plan and run drug-free celebrations.

Source: “Drug Free  School Zones” by The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information