Chesterton Tribune

Random drug tests violate student rights

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Voice of the People

No sensible adult wants kids to experiment with drugs. No responsible school administration wants kids under their responsibility to be using drugs. I personally believe our school administration takes their responsibility very seriously.

Our school system currently utilizes a “reasonable suspicion” based system to determine if a student should be a candidate for drug testing. Factors such as behavior and school performance are included and more than one school official must be included in deciding if drug testing may be warranted.

I have heard recently that someone has suggested that Duneland return to suspicionless testing of students. Since it is not legal to force all students to be tested, they would require that students who wish to be in school activities or park on school grounds sign agreement in writing to submit to drug testing. I call that blackmail; and it is damaging to the primary function of the school, which is to prepare our students to understand their responsibilities and to function as citizens in our democracy.

This is not just my opinion. In the Supreme Court decision that allowed suspicionless testing, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented saying: “When custodial duties are not ascendant, however, school’s tutelary duties obligations to their students require them to ‘teach by example’ by avoiding symbolic measures that diminish Constitutional protections.”

To me, the important question is how can we best utilize our resources to meet all our responsibilities to the kids. I question no ones concerns for the problem, my concern is for priorities and methods. William Bailey, the director of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, wrote “The money is more effectively spent on involving kids in adult sponsored after school activities.”

The reasons the Supreme Court gave allowing suspicionless drug testing do not say it is the best tool. Clarence Thomas wrote: “A program of individualized suspicion might unfairly target members of unpopular groups.” But he also said: “In upholding the constitutionality, we express no opinion as to its wisdom.” Justice Breyer quoted Thomas’s concern and added: “I cannot know whether the school’s drug testing program will work.”

Finally, in the Supreme Court Chandler decision prohibiting drug testing for political candidates the court ruled: “What is left…is the image the state seeks to project…, the need revealed is symbolic, not special.”

William Barkow