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January 09, 2004

Drug Testing in School

Drug testing in the schools disturbs me greatly.

A news story this morning and a PBS documentary earlier this week have got me thinking about the trend toward school districts forcing kids who participate in extracurricular activities to take drug tests.

When my former district in Lufkin, Texas, decided to implement drug testing, I felt obligated to voice my opinion against the policy at the next board meeting, which I attended regularly anyway. I felt emboldened when the meeting drew around 200 concerned parents. I thought, "Good. I'm not the only one who sees this as an invasion or privacy and a usurpation of parental authority."

As it turned out, I was the only one there who was concerned about that. Every parent who spoke was enthusiastically in support of drug testing. No one voiced even the slightest reservation about rights or privacy. The ubiquitous observation, "If you ain't been doing nothing, you ain't got nothing to worry about" seemed to be enough reasoning for most everybody there. To this line I would ask, "If you don't suspect something, why do I have to prove anything?"

The reasoning behind testing only the extracurricular kids is this: when a student participates in, for instance, band or athletics, he or she changes clothes at school. By doing this, a student has given up an expectation of privacy, which legally enables the school to test. The policy of testing everyone in school, mentioned in the documentary, was struck down by the Supreme Court, which led to the extracurricular workaround.

My concerns are these:

1. With any drug testing, you are proving your innocence, which is the reverse of the "innocent until proven guilty" legal premise. The burden should remain a proof of guilt, which lies with the authorities, not the student.
2. Fourth amendment rights are violated because the tests are random, which means the authorities have no suspicion of wrongdoing, a standard they must meet for warrants and arrests in the real world.
3. Parental authority is undermined. The school becomes the authority over the child's actions, even if those actions happen ouside the school day.
4. The basis for personal morality becomes fear rather than clear and rational thinking. Education leads to morality; fear leads to submission.
5. The accusation is implied when a student is called to take the test. The psychological damage to some students is significant even though they are innocent. Guilt, real or implied, stunts open discussion and honesty. See: Salem Witch Trials.
6. The students who need interaction and help to fight drug problems are marginalized as they are forced to exclude themselves from the very activities, such as sports and academic competition, that could help them.
7. Although the tests are by design anonymous, everyone in the school will know within 24 hours of a student's positive results. For the rest of his or her life, that student will be stigmatized for a single bad decision.
8. Cost. Teachers are paying 2-4 times as much for health insurance as they were a few years ago. How 'bout directing that money to help them? Or hiring more teachers? Or buying supplies?

But I obviously am in the minority. Most parents seem to be enthusiastic about the school testing for drugs. In the end, maybe what's most disturbing to me is not the testing itself, but rather the unquestioning acceptance by adults of what to me is an egregious breach of not only civil rights but of a school's purpose and scope of authority.

Posted by tat at January 9, 2004 10:34 AM


Cool sight.

I pretty much agree with this one. Drug testing is a waist of time and money in school.

Posted by: Trickhorn at January 11, 2004 02:23 AM

I don't agree with the drug testing either. If faced with this, I would just not participate in the activities, even though I have nothing to hide.

Your "innocent until proven guilty" argument only works if the children are brought up on criminal charges following a positive test. If they are only banning said students from the activities, it's more like saying "you have to prove you aren't on drugs to participate," kinda like having to prove that you can drive a car, by getting a license, before you can drive. Remember that participating in the activities is not a right, neither is driving a car. If we were to extend your "innocent until proven guilty" argument to say flying planes, would we then let just anyone pilot planes, until they proved that they were guilty of not knowing how to fly the plane? I know it's a bit of a stretch, but it illustrates a point.

This is just another way parents are shifting their responsibilities to something else... TV, schools, daycare... If people would raise their kids instead of farming them out, we wouldn't have these problems in the first place... And lets not even talk about legalization. "We're the government and we say its illegal for you to go and pick those naturally occuring plants." Maybe if something wasn't stupidly illegal, we wouldn't have to test the kids in the first place.

Come the revolution!

Posted by: ToddDrevers at January 13, 2004 09:10 AM

I agree with Todd. This is yet another attempt to shift responsibility from parents to another entity. My question is, who is causing the shift? How did we get to this attitude of "I'm not responsible?" Where did this come from?

I really do wonder if the government (and I know this sounds paranoid, but think about it) enjoys and perpetuates our dependence on it. School terms are getting longer and longer. You hear parents complain that there kids are out of school for the summer and rejoice when August rolls around. There are boys and girls clubs, after school programs. We drop the kids off early in the morning and pick them up just in time for bath and bed. Where's the time for parental influence? Even school curriculums are strictly mandated. It's as if the government has douped us all into thinking it's doing a wonderful job "helping" us rear our kids and yet, if you step back and examine it, maybe we're just playing into their hands? After all, the best way to control the masses is to teach what you want them to learn to the children. An insiduous approach, if you will.

Even in the private school my children attend, you hear the kids tell you little things told to them throughout the day that lets you know that they're not being encouraged to think for themselves, rather to agree with the thinking of the teacher. How ya gonna grow an entrepreneur like that???

What's going on here?I really can't put my finger on it, and I'm not sure. There seems to be such a viscious cycle of passing the buck, it's hard to see where it started or say where it should end!

Here's an analogy. When you're a kid, as long as you take money from your parents, they can tell you what to do. We've all heard that, right? Well, with government, it's the same way. Everytime we implement a government program, there has to be some sort of watchdog program set up to tell you what to do. And, while we may enjoy the cash, you've got to admit, it's back to the "as long as you live in this house" thing. But the programs are needed - but we don't want government telling us what to do - but there are so many less fortunate - but, but, but. Do you see what I mean? where does it all end?

I guess we have to decide how much personal freedom we are willing to sacrifice in exchange for governmental intervention. It's a tough choice. It's hard to say.....What is going on and when are we going to stop it and take back our children?

Posted by: Ginger Kalafatis at January 13, 2004 11:30 PM

You've just hit on what I think is the BIGGEST conspiracy of the 20th century which the rich and powerful are detemined to carry through the 21st. Here's what they brainwash into you from the moment you start to learn: "You need to get good grades so you can go to a good college and get a degree and get a good job." School and college is an over-glorified "good-employee" training program, plain and simple. Even if you take business management, they'll teach you everything you need to know about running a business and NOT ONE THING about how to start a business. They don't want you starting a business, they want you working for them. They're brainwashing everyone to to work for the rich, and to think that they are successful when they do so. Well I'll tell you what, there's no job big enough for the human spirit. In 1900, only 10% of American had jobs, now 90% have jobs. This country was built on free enterprise, on private business. Well, they've taken it all away, and now they just brainwash you and give you a 401k and you're supposed to think you've done something with your life. Meanwhile, when the economy goes in the toilet, they discard all their brainwashed employees like used kleenex. Employees don't get any tax advantages and are lucky if they get any benefits. Well, here's a sobering thought. The average income for people over the age of 65, right now, is $12,000. If you're just scrapping through now, what makes you think you can live the rest of your days on the 1/3 to 1/2 income that your retirement is going to provide. And here's the real kicker. This country is looking at the biggest stock market crash in history, and a lot of people are going to be up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle. By law, you have to take money from your 401k when you reach 70 1/2 years old. What do you think is going to the stock market, when millions of baby-boomers hit 70 1/2 and are required by law to take money from their 401k accounts, which is the stock market!!!! Couple that with the amount already being taken out to pay for their increased health care costs, and you are going to see a stock market crash that'll make 1929 seem like just a dip. Scary scary stuff.

Posted by: ToddDrevers at January 14, 2004 11:00 AM