A $430,000 drug education program for elementary school children being pushed by Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates, but targeted for rejection by the county administrative office, is scheduled to come before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. When it does, the supervisors should waste no time approving the project and getting it into the schools.
The county administrative office is not against the sheriff bringing his anti-drug crusade into more classrooms. It is worried about funding new programs not now in the county budget and depleting the county’s thin budget reserves. But that is not really an issue in this case.
Gates is not seeking to raid the county coffers for his program. He will be raiding drug operations in the street and using the money that is confiscated from drug dealers to educate young people to the dangers of drugs and try to keep them from becoming users. That is a most proper use of money and other assets seized in drug cases, up to 90% of which under federal law is returned to police departments for anti-drug use.
The sheriff needs board approval only because he is seeking to add personnel to free several street-smart deputies who have worked narcotics investigations to go into elementary schools. They will bring to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders the message “Be Smart, Don’t Start” that highlighted last week’s very visible countywide Red Ribbon Week, conducted by the Drug Use Is Life Abuse Foundation.
Gates has had considerable success so far working with young people on high school campuses. The next logical step is to expand the energetic effort to younger people, especially when it is drug dealers and not the county taxpayers who will be paying for the anti-drug education.
There are too many people in the county pushing drugs on youngsters. The supervisors should join the sheriff and others whom he has recruited in pushing back with the drug abuse school programs.