A change in course
Bob McDonnell, during his 2009 gubernatorial campaign, supplemented his calls for tougher sentencing of drug dealers with a pledge to improve drug education in public schools.
His public safety plan made this promise: "McDonnell will implement a standard for programs that teach students how drugs can negatively impact physical and mental health, as well as the social consequences of substance abuse that reach children at a variety of ages."
McDonnell further shaped his pledge in January of this year, telling the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he would establish a model drug-prevention program to be piloted in schools across the state, according to an article published on Jan. 20.
We asked McDonnell's office for an update and learned the governor has chosen a different approach that leaves local school systems in charge of their drug education programs.
"It became apparent, upon further study and consultation with experts, that schools across the Commonwealth had implemented several different best practice programs," spokesman Paul Shanks wrote in an email. "Consequently, instead of creating a single pilot program, the decision was made to recognize best practices programs, encourage systems to review what is out there, and have a Governor's recognition program in place by the spring."
In October, McDonnell announced the Substance Abuse Awareness Vital for Virginia Youth (SAVVY) initiative designed to educate youths, parents and school officials about the dangers of substance abuse. The program kicked off with expos in Chesterfield County and Manassas this fall, and there are similar events planned for this spring in Tidewater and Southwest Virginia.
SAAVY plans to recognize exemplary substance abuse-prevention programs in Virginia schools this spring. The governor's staff are working with the departments of Education, Health, and Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and educators and health professionals from the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University to develop the criteria for the awards, Shanks said. The criteria will be released in January.
So McDonnell is trying to improve drug education, but differently than he pledged during his campaign. Instead of establishing a standardized curriculum, the governor will publicize the best programs around the state and leave local school systems free to decide what works best for them.
We rate this a Compromise.
McDonnell for Governor, "McDonnell Unveils Public Safety Program," August, 2009.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Governor seeks harsher penalties for repeat drug offenders," Jan. 20, 2012.
Emails from McDonnell spokesman Paul Shanks, Nov. 20 and Dec. 4, 2012.
McDonnell, "Governor McDonnell Announces Initiative to Promote Substance Abuse Awareness and Prevention for Virginia"s Youth," Oct. 26, 2012.
State Public Safety Department, homepage, accessed Nov. 21, 2012.
Facebook, SAVVY VA, accessed Nov. 21, 2012.