Thursday, July 26, 2007

Schools and Drug Testing

I was once "thanked and dismissed" from jury consideration because I'm former military, had kicked people out of the army for drug use, and have a friend who's a cop. I'm not a fan of drug use at all, and no, I don't accept the libertarian "it's my body" argument. I do, however, think that marijuana should be legalized, and no, I don't smoke it.

So you know where I stand on drugs.

In Tennessee, student athletes can be tested for drug use--I'll ignore, for the moment, why only athletes are tested and not others who represent the school--but recently the state attorney general opined that testing random athletes violates state law. Specifically, he said, state law requires that there be a reasonable suspicion of drug use before students can be tested.

The opinion doesn't bar schools from drug testing, but it could leave them open to court challenges, said Rich Haglund, legal counsel for the state board of education.

So what are some schools doing? They're testing their students anyway.

You can hear the leftie cries of "it's to protect the children!" all the way out here on the Left Coast. Apparently, "protecting the children" is far more important than a) following the law, and b) the constitutional rights of those children.

Yes, I know that children have fewer rights than do adults, and even support the reasoning behind that fact. However, I don't see that reasoning as supporting random drug testing. Even children should be presumed innocent of crimes before there's adequate reason to believe they're not, and the fishing expedition that is random drug testing assumes just the opposite.

Random drug testing is right up there with the Transportation Security Administration (the federal idiots at the airport)--window dressing so some politician somewhere can say he or she is "doing something" about a problem, but that actually accomplishes next to nothing.

What should we do about kids' taking drugs? I don't have a complete answer to that yet. But I know the solution does not include having random students, or even random athletes, pee in a bottle.

And schools that continue to do this now that they've been told that the top law enforcement officer in the state thinks it's illegal? They deserve to get hit with the lawsuits that will come--just like my school district deserves to get hit with the lawsuits that will eventually come from the charging of illegal fees.

I can forgive breaking a law inadvertently. I can't forgive a government entity knowingly and willfully violating the law.


Law and Order Teacher said...

I get your point about random testing. Apparently, the NCAA doesn't agree with you as my daughter was tested randomly when she played soccer in college. Children do have fewer rights than adults in school, not out. Random testing should be, as you pointed out, conducted on students participating in all extracurricular activities, not just sports. Just as principals can check lockers and student vehicles in school parking lots for contraband without search warrants or probable cause, they are permitted to conduct random testing on students in extracurricular activities. Student safety does trump some rights.

I don't have a problem with random testing as long as the results are used for medical and not criminal purposes. Random testing under these circumstances has been upheld in court. Random testing does not presume guilt as it is random and not directed at particular individuals. Most schools that have backed away from random testing have done so for monetary and public relations reasons, not legal.

Coach Brown said...

Besides the fact that I totally disagree with you, and have no problem with drug testing, it is not a constitutional issue.

I talk to my students about this case. Schools are well within their right to test any extra-curricular activites.

You going to Blog Fest West?

Darren said...

I don't believe students *should* be tested randomly, absent evidence or some compelling suspicion of wrongdoing. There's nothing about drug testing that promotes "school safety" so I don't buy that argument.

It's wrong, whether or not it's legal in certain jurisdictions.

Ellen K said...

Two observations:
1. Texas passed a similar law, and the next day there was a letter from a parent whose son was in one of the high schools that had had a very public problem with steroids. The whistleblower, in this case a single mom who caught her son with steroids, was ousted from the area due to threats. And the letter writer was outraged that his son's rights were going to be violated. Never mind that his kid might go the route of Lyle Alzado and die, but let's get all crazy about rights. Part of the problem is that too many former jock Dad's did steroids in high school and college and don't see a problem with it, if it give their kids the edge to make varsity.
2. Too many parents do NOT want to know their kids are using drugs. I teach in a high school where lack of supervision and too much money make it a hotbed of drug use. I have had to teach kids who were on steroids and it is a terrifying experience due to uncontrolled behavior and mood swings. While I can understand that people are leery of the government controlling and spying on their kids' lives, if the state or school or somebody doesn't take a stand, we cannot count on the parents to do so.

Coach Brown said...

"There's nothing about drug testing that promotes "school safety"

I don't see that reasoning at all. Someone who is on drugs is usually in possession of drugs (which is obviously a safety issue), someone who is on drugs is interfering with the educational process in a variety of ways, someone who is on drugs at school is a liability for the school, and the beat could go on.

Law and Order Teacher said...

We are going to have to agree to disagree. Because you say that there is nothing about drug testing that promotes "school safety" doesn't make it so. I have been a police officer in schools for years and as the young lady said at the end of the article it does work. If we can say as school people that we have taken every opportunity to make the school campus safe, we have done what we can. Off campus we can't do anything. Talking to students has convinced me that the fear of testing positive for drugs gives the students another way to say no.

Darren said...

If you're only testing athletes--or only testing extra-curricular activities' students, for that matter--you're not necessarily keeping the school "safe" at all.

I don't like the trade-off between individual liberty and "presumed innocent" on one side, and maybe "protecting the school" on the other. It's giving up too much liberty for too little safety, meaning the students have neither.

Law and Order Teacher said...

I appreciate your point of view. I enjoy a good, respectful disagreement.

Darren said...

As do I.