Yesterday I was heated against the Vermilion School Board passing possible drug testing. Vermilion is my Alma Mater, but I don’t live in Vermilion. This directive does not affect me. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the right privacy that has been codified in the constitution. It didn’t help that I was spun up from this act passing that I watched an episode of the West Wing that covered drug testing and privacy rights. Last night was the perfect storm of outrage that I couldn’t fall asleep until almost 3AM.
The first thing I see online from some of the obsessive parents commenting on the news report is that all students should be tested for enrollment for school. There is a problem with that, last year mandatory drug testing for school enrollment at a technical college. The ACLU filed suit and a federal judge forbid the school from doing this. The college dropped the policy and decided they have not yet wanted to pursue the fight against the ACLU and test the constitutional implications. Since children are forced to go to school, I’m betting on one heck of a constitutional battle to pass it for all students.
This moves into the fact that the Vermilion School system is only testing those students in optional activities. This could be an end run attempt against worrying about being the school that sets the constitutional precedent. The problem is that it will drive some students away from extracurricular activities. These students then lose an advantage they would otherwise have statistically over kids that do not participate.
Excerpts from the Bureau of Labor’s document on Afterschool activities:
..studies suggest that participating in extracurricular activities helps students in their academic performance. Researchers found that self-motivation is a factor: Achieving success in an activity that interests them requires students to develop good time-management habits that carry over into schoolwork. And eligibility for participating often requires students to maintain a minimum gradepoint average—so taking part in extracurriculars means keeping up with academics.
…For students planning to attend college or graduate school, extracurricular activities may improve their school-acceptance prospects. Extracurricular participation is often an indicator of students’ ability to accept responsibility, manage multiple commitments, and balance their pursuits of study, interest, and leisure.
The Bureau of Labor doesn’t separate kids that may have tried an illegal substance. This is across the board. I also understand the need to test athletes for performance enhancing drugs. The fact that a teenager tries marijuana once and can ruin his choir career, affecting possible scholarships and just placing him into hanging out with a group that may lead to more pot use – is ridiculous.
When I went to Vermilion High School I never smoked pot. I drank one mouthful of beer at a marching band party. I smoked three cigarettes. I would have always tested (and still would) test clean for all illegal substances. Just because I have nothing hide does not mean I want my privacy invaded in any regards. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t drugs around the school.
I will grant that meth is becoming an epidemic. From rumors I have heard it’s use in growing Vermilion. Traditionally though pot was the drug of choice for most of Vermilion. I will not call anyone out, but many adults I know in Vermilion that I went to high school with tried pot at least once. Some were regular smokers. If I had to guess I would say the number is somewhere between 20-30% of the student body tried pot at least once. I would have to go through a year book to positive. In a school of around 2000 at that time, this meant around 400 at least tried it.
From what I was told in the seventies even a larger percentage of the student population used drugs. Back then when the high school was new there was at least one group that would sneak up onto the roof and smoke pot during the school day. This was told to me by one of the participants. This same group would also make LSD in the chemistry lab before the ingredients were more tightly controlled. The person that told me this did not do any drugs by the time I knew them. They also had a successful job in the medical career (which means constant drug testing).
Most teenagers that experiment with pot leave it behind as they grow up. This is more from watching friends than looking at actual statistics. If you would like statistics, the University of Wisconsin has stated that around 100 million Americans have tried pot at least once. This means one-third of all United States citizens have tried pot. This does not make them habitual pot users. Even my evidence in high school this would drop somewhere from 5% – 10% of the school.
Quite a few pot users have left it behind. The list of careers from people I know that at least smoked it occasionally from school range from teachers, business owners, and even doctors. There are also many others between those ranks. A good portion of these people also participated in afterschool activities. This helped them become part of the statistic where participants have a stronger career after they graduate. Some of the kids going through Vermilion in the future will be driven away from these activities – which in turn actually makes them a higher risk to have a substance abuse problem.
Moving away from pot for a minute – let’s move to drinking. People like to point to marijuana and point to federal law. They ignore teenage drinking and parties, because somehow that’s a way of life. These students are more likely go out and get into an accident and kill themselves or someone else. The drinking problem was much more rampant than pot when I was in school. From the parties in the woods behind Vallyview to bonfires in the country, alcohol was easy to obtain.
The reason this is important is at least one of my friends blasted the federal law line about marijuana. In Ohio if you have 100 grams of pot or less it is a $100.00 fine. In contrast underage consumption of alcohol has a $1000.00 fine. My friends that smoked pot usually had very small amounts on them, this means that if I was caught with that mouthful of beer I had in high school – my fine would be ten times greater. Drinking underage though is just considered one of those paths to becoming an adult.
Very few adults enjoy drug tests. It’s funny that Vermilion is now deciding to hand them out like candy. It is however for the children. As a society we think people under the age of eighteen have no rights. They actually do. Parents though erode the rights for their children that they benefited from themselves. Instead of being good parents that teach their child right from wrong they want to hand them over to someone else.
Why are the adults treated differently? From my understanding all faculty and staff is tested when they are first hired. Why not submit all the Vermilion Schools Systems faculty, staff, and board members to this same random testing. If they can strip the rights from those that want to participate, well they are participating to. Do you want your child taught by an habitual drug user who stays clean long enough because they know when they will tested? If you can’t take you own medicine and live by the same set of rules, you shouldn’t be passing it onto others. Of course you have that pesky union thing to worry about once you start testing the teachers – but it’s for the children.
If you test your own children, go right ahead. Expecting others to do it because you have not taken the initiative, that is bad parenting. You should not expect someone to do something for you that you will not do yourself. When someone states I swing too far left politically, this is where my Republican side shines. I believe that privacy is a personal right that can not be compromised. I believe drug testing for anyone attending school mandatorily is a violation of privacy right and freedom from the right of self-recrimination.
Oh, I almost forgot. To get facts on passing a drug test check out this link. I have no personal experience, but I can google with the best of them. Reading that link will get you further than I could with my misinformation from ER and Law & Order.
It is best not to take any drugs. However, expecting all students to refrain from ever trying them is like teaching abstinence. If you are reading this and you think you might have a drug problem – get help. Contact people who can help you and keep this confidential to the degree you are comfortable with. This is not so you can go out and party wildly 24/7. It is to help you rethink your life in those moments you made a mistake and you shouldn’t continue down the path. Make your life better.
None of this post is designed to advocate drug use. It is an acceptance that mistakes occur. If you have made a mistake, it’s sad that this one can literally haunt you until you at least get out of college. Think twice when you do anything. If you do something, do it as safely as possible. As you get older you will get more rights, until those to are slowly eroded by those that came before you.