Brandon Crist, Mimi Wood
Some communities, including Newport Beach, Shasta and Huntington Beach, have “voluntary” drug testing of students as a deterrent to substance abuse. In Huntington Beach, for example, high school parents are asked to sign forms allowing their children to be tested, and 10 students are picked at random per month. The testing is done by a private company and paid for by a parent club, and results are given to parents, not the school. Students are not forced to comply. The policy went into effect after a student overdosed on heroin.
From instilling core values to delivering a hot breakfast, it seems like every year California's educators are asked to perform another job that was once the responsibility of parents. Adding drug testing to that list is a terrible idea.
The whole notion of voluntary drug testing is a farce. Parents who "volunteer" their children are simply forcing them to participate, while those who leave it up to the kids are putting them in a Catch-22. Refuse and everyone will assume they're on dope. What choice do kids have but to knuckle under?
Whether or not school-administered drug testing violates a student's privacy rights is a matter for the courts, but it clearly undermines the parent-child relationship. In addition to creating an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust, it essentially tells the child, "I don't care enough about you to confront this issue myself." Outsourcing your child's substance-abuse problem to the local school district isn't going to win you Parent of the Year.
What it will win you is a whole lot of cheating. When Huntington Beach High allowed parents to enter their kids in a lottery for random drug testing, the Orange County Register reported that about one in 10 responses showed obvious signs of tampering. If Lance Armstrong can fool the world's top scientists for the better part of a decade, what chance do cash-strapped schools and overworked parents have against an army of tech-savvy, determined teens?
So, do we give up and let the kids light up in the quad? Of course not.
There is one group on campus that should be acting like the police: the police. When a student is suspected of being under the influence, law enforcement should administer a drug test on the spot. If it comes back negative, there’s no harm done. If it comes back positive, the parents should be given the results — and the bill.
Brandon Crist is a member of United Teachers Los Angeles.
In some schools, drug testing may be necessary when drug use is rampant among students. It is a way of changing the student mindset so they understand that drug use is not acceptable.
Having such a drug testing policy could potentially deter students from trying drugs if they think they might be tested. It could also be a way to help students deal with peer pressure, since they could save face with their peers when they refuse to take drugs because they might be tested at school. Drug testing should be combined with education about drug use and the short-term and long-term effects that drug use can have.
Drug testing should require parental consent, but be mandatory for students whose parents give consent. I think this is a good way for parents to send a message to their children that drug use will not be tolerated. I also think it is a way for parents to gain information about their children’s drug use that they might otherwise not be aware of.
I have not talked directly to any student regarding their feelings toward the policy, but I have read negative comments from them on Twitter. They feel that it creates a “prison” atmosphere, and that the school is treading on their civil rights.
However, I do not believe that drug testing violates students’ civil rights if the parents have given their consent. Parents should be able to make important decisions regarding their children’s health, and this would include decisions regarding drug testing.
We have fewer drug cases than before drug testing was implemented, but no evidence that this is directly correlated to the drug testing policy. However, parents and the community are positive about drug testing. They feel that our policy shows that Huntington Beach High School is trying to make a difference in decreasing student drug use.
Mimi Wood is a member of the Huntington Beach Union High School District Education Association.
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