Sunday, July 30, 2006

Branson schools to begin drug testing

Kris Kristofferson had it wrong in his classic song "Me and Bobby McGhee," when he wrote "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
When we wave red flags in front of the public like "war on terror" or "drug epidemic" the phrase becomes "freedom's just another word."
And apparently, it is one that has lost its meaning for many of our public officials. As far as the war on terror is concerned, at least we have a national debate on just how far we should intrude on personal freedom in the name of rooting out terrorists.
When we comes to the drug issue, people are becoming more and more willing to roll over and kiss away what personal freedoms they have. The Fourth Amendment has always been a keystone of American democracy. The schools, the very places that are designed to teach us about our freedoms, are rapidly becoming a place where students have no freedoms as far as their own bodies are concerned.
The Branson School District has become the latest to institute drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities, joining a host of schools across the country. Officials at many schools have made it clear they would like to be able to test all students, but so far the courts have only permitted testing of those who play sports or who are involved in school clubs or organizations. Branson has carried it a step further. The district will also test those who apply for parking privileges at the school. This will increase the number of students to be tested to about 60 percent.
The scariest thing about the new program is there has been little or no opposition to it. It is amazing how easily people can just toss away freedoms that have been so hard earned throughout our nation's history.
The rush toward drug testing is understandable. There is a problem among the nation's youth and school officials, just like everyone else in society, have felt helpless to deal with it. They want to do something and this is the best idea they could come up with. I can't fault their motives.
What I can fault is a program that not only violates student freedoms, but also takes the risk of keeping some students from involvement in the very activities that might keep them on the straight and narrow.
Drug testing is a band-aid approach that does not take into consideration the problems that addresses a symptom but not the root cause of the problem. When many students come from homes in which drug use is a fact of life, we have two strikes against us before we start. Isolating these children from the very activities that could save them from this environment could very well be a prescription for increasing the drug epidemic.


Anonymous said...

Thoughtful post, Randy. I wonder if you have a take on media coverage of this effort in Branson... perhaps I haven't followed the daily news closely enough, but when I learned of the testing today, it seemed to come out of the blue. The story in this morning's paper indicates a committee began meeting about this last October. Did anyone report it? Should they have done so?

Randy said...

I am not sure how much this was publicized. This was the first I had read of it and this is a topic that interests me, so I have to think if there had been any major reporting of it, I would have come across it. This is a topic that should be covered extensively by the media. Does drug testing work? Is it preventing students from participating in activities that could be beneficial to them? What are the Fourth Amendment ramifications? Yes, if it was not reported, it should have been.

Unknown said...

A much more aggressive approach to drug testing was in process with the Branson School District earlier in the year...and yes, it was met with great opposition. The current plan has been publicized greatly. The Branson Daily News, The Branson Independent + Taney County Times (Same Publisher) have run stories around this topic. The Springfield Newsleader ran the story last ... just before the Turner Report today.
Branson Edge
Branson Missouri

Anonymous said...

Randy, you have to keep in mind Branson is polluted with bible toting rightwingers that believe any and everything that anyone in government tells them.
It appears to me that all school children in Branson have been considered drug users, and its up to them to take a drug test to prove themselves drug free. Fine, lets give the same test to each teacher, administrator and bus driver. What is fair for students should be fair for administration.

How long will it be before the schools have no windows, are all enclosed in a chain link fence with razor wire and have armed guards? It may be to the point its to keep students in, not crimnals out.

Unknown said...

Bus Drivers are tested. When the issue first came up at the first of the year I wrote a rant called (here)Does Your Kids Teacher Smoke Crack?

Anonymous said...

Schools spend thousands of dollars to insure the kids taking part in these extra-curriculur activities. They have every right, and fiduciary obligation, to make sure these children aren't putting something in their bodies that could wind up costing the school district millions of dollars. If the quarterback drops acid before the game against Webb City and believes the middle linebacker's hands are rabid otters that need to be crushed beneath his cleats only to permanently maim some poor junior, the school's going to be on the hook for it.