A Case for Drug Testing
by Ned Wicker
It’s good to set standards and to expect that people will uphold those standards. However, it is rather naive to think that they will uphold the standards if you don’t inspect what you expect.
Several school districts around Southeastern Wisconsin, where I live, are conducting random drug testing for students participating in extra curricular activities. This has been going on for a while, but it’s a controversial topic.
Why not test?
Legalities aside, the districts that don’t conduct any drug testing aren’t participating because they don’t see any data to support the effectiveness of the testing. With drug use rampant, why not test? Do people really think that kids who go out for sports never use drugs or alcohol? What data are they looking for?
Drug testing is nothing new, but for school districts, it’s a sad reality of today’s society. When I was in high school there were beer parties, and there was always talk about smoking marijuana, but it wasn’t main stream.
We became entitled
In the 1960’s there were a lot of decisions made about school; we decided as a nation that you weren’t allowed to pray in school, and the drugs, sex and rock-n’roll generation got married and decided that their children wouldn’t be subjected to any scrutiny. After all, we decided that our children were entitled to have things better than we did.
I recall a court case in the early 1970’s when a school got sued because a coach told a player to get a haircut. I can understand that a large percentage of parents would want to fight any form of drug testing on the simple grounds that their child might, in some way, be inconvenienced.
Students who attend a school that does drug testing and who choose to participate in athletics or other co-curricular activities understand that they might be asked to leave class, go the office and meet with medical professionals, who would ask them to submit a urine sample for screening. Actually, the kids aren’t the problem, and if their parents agree to allow the drug testing, there won’t be a lot of heat about it.
Testing given the green light in 2002
The debate over drug screening heated up after a 2002 Supreme Court decision that gave the green light for districts to test both athletes and students who join other extracurricular groups. The reason for allowing drug testing is because students choose to sign-up for these voluntary activities.
Moreover, Justice Clarence Thomas concluded that the practice was “reasonably effective.” This all hinges on the assumption that students give up some of their right to privacy when they “go out” for a sport or activity. Personally, I have no problem with this.
I coach both football and baseball, and I expect the kids to adhere to the school’s athletic code. I heard a report about a kid who got caught selling alcohol and drugs in school, and I was saddened but not shocked to hear that the kid was an athlete. Of course the parents would be outraged if we tested “little Johnny,” because their kid would never do drugs. We might bruise his self esteem.
View it as a preventative health measure
Instead of looking at drug testing as an invasion of privacy and personal liberty, instead of choosing to view drug testing as an attack on a child’s character, look at drug testing as a preventative health measure. If a child is tested positive for drugs, test again to make sure; then use the test as a means to reach out and help the child understand the risks of using drugs. Don’t use the test as an excuse to expel them, or punish them, but exercise a little grace and work with them.
As much as I am for testing, I am against “zero tolerance” because it doesn’t allow for positive corrective measures. Expelling a child for drugs isn’t going to help him/her, but it will most likely reinforce why they took drugs to begin with.
I also believe in testing every student, not just the ones who participate in extra curricular activities. Of course the ACLU would jump all over this. Tests can be random, so a small number of students can give you a statistically accurate sampling of the student population. The trouble with this approach is that it might shock you to see the results. If you tested every student it would be very expensive, but a statistically correct sampling would give parents and administrators a good indication of the drug use in their schools.
Inspect what you expect
I believe in drug testing, as I submit to tests all of the time. The example set by all-star baseball player Josh Hamilton is a perfect illustration of the best attitude. Kicked out of baseball for his drug use and later reinstated, Hamilton submits gladly to weekly drug tests to show that he is clean, and to honor those who have put their trust in him. Expect, but inspect what you expect. It’s time to get back to personal responsibility.