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Just say "no" to random drug tests.

By Scott Tibbs, May 21, 2008

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Just say "no" to random drug tests.
Date: Wed, 21 May 2008 06:00:49 -0400
From: Scott Tibbs <tibbs1973@yahoo.com>
To: vmerriam@mccsc.edu, swanzer@mccsc.edu, sdaniels@mccsc.edu, jmuehlin@mccsc.edu, tgrossi@mccsc.edu, lskelton@mccsc.edu, djbutler@mccsc.edu

School Board members,

Years before the War on Terror brought about increased law-enforcement powers that are of great concern to civil libertarians, the "War on Drugs" laid the political foundation for these policies. Before being "soft on terror" was a label politicians wanted to avoid, being "soft on crime" was the feared accusation. Being tough on crime is a good thing, of course, but we do not have to be tough on civil liberties to do it. It is in this context that I encourage you to resist the temptation to adopt random drug tests for MCCSC students.

Random drug tests operate on a presumption of "guilty until proven innocent" that is inappropriate for any unit of government (including government schools) to adopt. It shows disrespect for students to force them to submit bodily fluids as a condition of engaging in extracurricular activities, and that disrespect does not exist in a vacuum. I believe you will be creating unnecessary distrust for and resentment toward authority.

Susan Forney said of random drug tests that parents "are more worried about keeping their kids alive and healthy than they are about protecting their civil liberties." Frankly, that attitude terrifies me. I firmly believe that a government that ignores the rule of law is far more dangerous to our liberty than any terrorist or foreign aggressor. Our civil liberties are the foundation of our society and are the very reason this country exists. One of those fundamental liberties is the right to be secure in our persons against unreasonable searches and seizures, a right protected by the Fourth Amendment.

There are other arguments as well, including that random drug tests will discourage participation in extracurricular activities. I question how effective random drug tests would be, as those who use drugs could simply avoid being tested by not participating in school activities. But the most important objection is that random drug tests are an invasion of privacy, especially for those who have done nothing wrong.

If there is probable cause to suspect that a student is using drugs, he or she should face the possibility of being tested provided that there are procedures in place to protect civil rights. For example, students on a sports or academic team could sign a contract as a condition of participation that they could be subjected to a drug test upon reasonable suspicion. The contract, of course, should also require explicit parental consent.

Drugs are certainly a problem with youth, but the way to solve that problem is not implementing a policy that insults and disrespects students while simultaneously eroding the fundamental liberties this nation was founded to protect. The answer is to be open and honest about the dangers of drugs without creating an authoritarian environment that encourages rebellion. Obviously, it has to be a community-wide effort. If MCCSC implements a drug policy, I would encourage the members of the MCCSC School Board to be the first ones to be tested. This show of solidarity with students would build mutual respect and trust, and be a sign of faith in the drug testing policy.

Scott Tibbs