LOCAL VOICES: 'Just say no' and threats don't work

Parents and others have approached the Norwalk School Board about instituting drug testing for all students at the High School.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Parents and others have approached the Norwalk School Board about instituting drug testing for all students at the High School.

Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2002, the school board has had the right to test those students for drugs on a random basis. The court in a 5-4 vote, reasoned that requiring students to yield up their urine for examination as a prerequisite to participating in extracurricular activities would serve as a deterrent to drug use "even though the conventional wisdom (supported by empirical data) is that students who participate in extracurricular activities are some of the least likely to use drugs."

Students have been bombarded with ads on TV, the D.A.R.E program and of course, “just say no,” from their early childhood on, which reminds them of the criminal consequences of drug use. This does little to assuage the students of their curiosity about drugs and the effects of drug use. The drug problems have grown from random use of marijuana by teens to serious addiction to substances like crack, heroin and methamphetamines.

Now it seems some parents want to turn over even more of their parental duties to the public schools and the teaching staff. Before we act too quickly to give up yet another right, shouldn’t we discuss the issue first?

Will across the board testing of students prevent addiction? Since the average student’s introduction  to these substances occurs at other places than school, the testing will probably not have an impact, since the threat of jail has not worked. Almost 30 years of threats, intimidation and harassment about drug use has failed, so what are the chances that more of the same will succeed, with school teachers becoming part of the “enemy”?

The other danger is that although it is supposed to be random, there is the propensity for labeling students based on types of clothing worn, musical preferences, income, ethnicity and other characteristics — which could lead to the same students to be selected time after time for testing. As  noted in the 2002 case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose dissenting opinion was joined by Justices Stevens, O’Connor and Souter, harshly condemned random testing as “unreasonable, capricious and even perverse.”

Since 9/11, we have become obsessed with recreating that feeling of security we once felt, a feeling was always at the most an illusion. The surrendering of the right to privacy and allowing the invasion of our children’s bodies by outside agencies will not bring that ‘illusion’ of safety and security back. However with a realization that the times are constantly changing, why don’t parents band together to take a proactive approach to the problem?

The students today are wise beyond their years. We rush our children through their childhood into adulthood, turning them into young people who are not emotionally, intellectually or spiritually mature enough to deal with living the “real world” of the 21st century. Perhaps they see drugs as a way to help them cope in the pressure cooker culture we have created?

We need to treat our young people, not as “suspects,” by instituting a fascist policy in which they are considered “guilty until proven innocent,” but as people who need to have all of the information about drugs taught to them at school so that they can make the right decisions.