Oakland school continues to fight the "war on drugs"

June 17, 2011 10:12:55 PM PDT
Nancy Reagan coined the "Just Say No" campaign from a question she was asked at an Oakland elementary school. Sixteen years later, the school continues to recognize the importance of keeping drugs out of the hands of children.

What began in Oakland in 1985 became a nationwide movement with thousands of "Just Say No" clubs all over the country.

The school where it all began -- formerly Longfellow School -- has now become Oakland Military Institute, a charter school where some graduates go on to fight in the war on drugs.

"We're kind of following in the footsteps of an effort that has helped a lot of kids avoid drugs," Superintendent Mark Ryan said.

Ryan understands how important it is to keep drugs out of the hands of young people.

"If they start drugs, experiment with drugs at a young age, the likelihood is that they're not going to end up on a positive path toward college," he said.

Police say there's a huge correlation between not being in school and being on drugs.

"Overall our schools are very safe places, almost oases in the communities; it's the surrounding neighborhoods that cause most of the problems," Oakland School District Police Chief Pete Sarna said.

Outside the walls of the school, the war on drugs continues in the North Oakland neighborhood. Folks who have been here since before the war on drugs began say they're not so sure the good guys are winning. Some neighbors say they have seen it get better in recent months, but even police admit there is work to be done.

A block from the school, a man named John said he doesn't really care about the war on drugs.

"Actually I was going to smoke some weed in a minute, so it shows you what I think about it," he said.

John says it is medical marijuana, which Oakland recently voted to tax. Some of the revenue puts more cops on the street to continue the war on the other drugs.


Load Comments