Message From Nation's Drug Czar: This Is Your Life At 70, Schubert Gets A Videotaped Tribute

November 15, 1990|By Sherri Kimmel Diegel | Sherri Kimmel Diegel,Contributing writer

It's not often that you see your whole life flash before you on a TV screen, and even less likely that you'll see the nation's drug czar lean forward at his Office of National Drug Control Policy desk and proclaim that you're one heck of a guy.

But that's a tape Earl Schubert can replay, thanks to his daughter Sandy Brock. For Schubert's 70th birthday last year, Sandy, the wife of former U.S. Secretary of Labor Bill Brock, had a 90-minute "This is Your Life" video produced for her doting dad.

Country singer Lee Greenwood aside, the heaviest video hitter was then-drug czar William Bennett, paying tribute to the retired educator who traveled the nation for two years sniffing out drug-free schools -- a program instigated when Bennett was U.S. Secretary of Education.

"I remember a very nice note you sent me about a splendid school you visited," says Bennett. . "I got another note from the school itself."

Dramatic pause.

"It said they had never seen an adviser or a consultant who was so helpful, interested and concerned with young people. This is news when a school writes a letter to the secretary of education praising a consultant.

In my will I would leave to every secretary of education Earl Schubert as an adviser."

That letter of praise came from a school in Texas, Bennett's home state and Schubert's adopted one. South of San Antonio, in Pleasanton, which bills itself as "the birthplace of the cowboy," Schubert went a-sleuthing.

It was the first school he visited for the Drug Free School Recognition Program, and one of his favorites.

A Texas Ranger escorted him to Pleasanton's elementary school, noteworthy because "two little kids observed a drug ring in the community," Schubert says. "They reported it to their teacher, and 19 people were indicted and sent to prison. There used to be a bad problem, but the kids cleaned it up."

"I was retired when I met Bill Bennett in 1984," Schubert recalls. "I liked a lot of the things he was doing. I had all kinds of contacts at the Department of Education, so I just called him. I said, 'You've started this drug-free school program. Would you like to use someone who's been around the barn?' He said, 'Yeah.' " Schubert served from 1987 to 1989 on a panel of 60 to 70 distinguished educators, law-enforcement officials and drug-abuse experts who visited schools to verify administrators' claims.

Because he wanted to devote more time to writing and travel, Schubert served on the panel through last summer, then resigned. But he still maintains close contact with Bennett.

Schubert says drug-free schools all have "input from the churches and law enforcement, a great faculty, great leadership, support materials, a great PTA, a great hospital -- all working together for the students to keep drugs out of their schools."

When Schubert would arrive in the schoolyard for a site visit, he'd speak with students without their teachers around, teachers without administrators around, and members of the Board of Education. He'd also look for graffiti on the walls and chaos in the classrooms.

Nearly 25 years have passed since Schubert's been in the trenches, but the educator with the jaunty mustache vividly recalls dealing with the comparatively minor drug problem of those days as principal of upscale Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md. He would treat students caught with drugs today much as he did then.

"I would send the student home and request the parents to come in with the student as soon as possible, then introduce them to the counselor. The counselor would have support people to call upon -- medical people, law enforcement. I would assign an officer to the kid.

"This approach wasn't hitting them over the head and threatening them that (drug abuse) is wrong," Schubert says. "It was, 'This is what drugs are going to do to you; this is how we want to help you.' But if today the kid is sharing crack at home with the old man, what can the school do about it?"

Schubert sides with Bennett, who feels law enforcement is the No. 1 weapon in congress with community cooperation and education. And he disagrees with proponents of legalization.

"They are trying to liken this to Prohibition, but it's not the same thing," he says. "Drugs are disastrously and instantaneously mind-altering, and can be immediately death-producing."

Before becoming an expert on drug-free schools, Schubert served as superintendent or principal in Missouri, Delaware and Maryland through the 1950s and '60s.

Under the Johnson Administration, he became a high-ranking member of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He stayed on under the Nixon and Ford regimes, with HEW loaning him out as a trouble-shooter to the U.S.

Department of Justice, the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Institute of Education. His specialty was inspiring cooperation between state and federal education administrators and political leaders.

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