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Drug Testing: Pass or Fail?

John: Let's talk about that issue of trust. Does trust outweigh the drug problem? Do you feel that we show a lot of mistrust by trying to test students, or not?

Patrick: I feel that the random drug testing program at our school, it almost has like a witch-hunt vibe to it. It has an accusatory feel to it, and it gives the impression that the administration doesn't trust us. I feel that if there's been sufficient evidence that a kid has been abusing drugs, he should get help, but the random drug testing does feel like a breach of trust.

Stephanie: I mean, I consider a drug problem at least one kid on drugs. That's a problem. Obviously, we have more than one kid that's on drugs. And you can't trust kids — if kids are on drugs at our school, and we know that there are, there's proof that there are, why should they still trust the kids? I don't understand that. It's more a question of responsibility. The school is responsible for us between the hours of 7:30 and 2:00, just like our parents are responsible for us when we get out of school. So if our parents are responsible for us out of school, and our parents are taking the initiative out of school, in school the school should be taking the initiative to make sure we're okay, health wise, in well being and education.

Patrick: If the school's responsible for us from 7:00 to 2:00 during the day, if we're not doing drugs during school, they're not responsible for us, for our drug use.

Stephanie: But how can they be sure that we're not doing it in school? I mean, I know kids that do drugs in between classes, in the bathroom. It is possible. So why wouldn't they test for that, especially since we pointed out that the cotton swab test is really effective within the last couple of hours. So if you test someone at 2:00, and they come up positive, they were doing drugs in school.

Jackie: Even if it is to target the kids who are doing drugs in school, then their method is very inefficient, because there are so many kids doing it on the weekend, so they're only sifting out the drug users that are taking the risk of doing it in the bathroom, or doing it behind a building. It's just not efficient enough to just sift out the kids who are smoking on the premises, or doing whatever they're doing. I think that the new procedure doesn't really get all the drug users. And one of the biggest problems I have with it is that it only targets the kids who are participating in their clubs, and participating in their activities, and that definitely is a breach of trust.

Ryan: It's not so much an issue of trust. I don't think that word should even come into play with the relationship between the faculty and students and Board of Ed, etc., but one of responsibility. And I think that if a student is a recreational drug user, and if he likes to smoke marijuana on the weekends, and consume alcoholic beverages, and whatever else he wants to do, and can maintain good grades, and not have disruptive behavior in a classroom environment, and go through high school successfully, then that's not a problem at all. As long as he's taking care of himself, and is fully willing to accept whatever responsibility may fall on him with the law, if he's doing anything illegal. Obviously, we know marijuana's illegal. I don't think there's any real law about chugging Robitussin. Personally, I haven't seen anyone drinking Robitussin in school. I might laugh if I did. But aside from that, I think that there have been many successful students who have gone through Central and graduated and went on to great colleges, and many current students who have better grades than I do, and come to class high every day, or whatever. I really don't think we have a drug problem at all in this school. My personal feeling is that our school's drug use is on the exact level as any other progressive school in a well-to-do type of area. And really when we say 'drug problem,' and 'drug abuse,' you've got to understand that we're talking about two different classes of drugs here. The difference between alcohol, you know, marijuana, smaller-league recreational drugs. And then there's the kids who are doing coke and anabolic steroids, and the rest of them. They're totally different groups of people. And if I had to guess, I'd say it was close to the majority of students at Hunterdon Central have at least tried smoking pot before, and close to the majority, if not over majority, have tried alcohol before. And both of those things, underage drinking and smoking marijuana are illegal, but our arrest records aren't that bad, now, are they? And we're a blue-ribbon school of excellence, so apparently we don't have that many drunk and high kids walking around our hallways in a stupor. We seem to be doing pretty well, if you ask me.

Patrick: Going along with what Ryan said, is a little harmless, teenage experimentation so wrong? People experiment with everything in life, religion, living with different people, going to college, I don't know, maybe that wasn't the greatest analogy ever. But for some kids, maybe they want to experience some kind of different consciousness. And as long as it doesn't interfere with their health, or whatever goals they want to achieve. I mean, everybody in their life will experiment with something, at some point in time. It's the teenage way, I guess.

John: Patrick and Ryan, you've come down on the side [in a sense], of Mrs. Tannahill. She seemed to think that there wasn't much of a drug problem, because students were doing so well.

Ryan: A lot of what they were concerned about in Lockney seemed to be cocaine. There had been a drug bust in Lockney, I think 11 people were arrested. And that was really what sparked the drug testing policy. But really, I didn't see any correlation between the arrests in the town of Lockney and the students at Lockney High. All of the people interviewed — the students especially — weren't talking about cocaine. They didn't mention it. They said, 'If someone comes into class smelling like smoke, or if a kid comes to class drunk,' but really where this whole thing came from in Lockney is that the police and the Board of Ed and parents around the community were worried about a cocaine issue, and it turned into an every-drug issue.

Jackie: I think it still has to go back to the whole responsibility thing. The school — they're our parents when we're here, and they really need to make sure that they're not liable for the accidents that can take place if someone's on drugs. And I understand that that's what they're trying to do with the drug testing at school. But with the Lockney case, it seemed to me that there was a problem with adults, and with the arrests that Ryan was referring to, the majority of the arrests were adults. And it seems to me that towns just need some education about drugs, or more education than there is. I mean, we go through the program, but I'm not sure that that's enough, and I'm not sure that drug testing would solve that.

Kate: The thing is, you're targeting just the kids. And if it's a problem that goes beyond the kids, I mean, I'm sure most of the people who are dealing the cocaine aren't kids. Aren't they the root of the problem? Shouldn't we be focusing on where this is coming from, and not just targeting the kids?

John: So what you're saying is that the problem is not really a school problem, it's a society problem. Is that it?

Patrick: Going along with what Kate said, a lot of the searches and seizures in school, you know, bringing drug dogs in to search lockers, and catching kids on a lottery drug test basis, we're really not getting to the root of the problem. I mean, finding a dime bag of weed in a kid's locker, that's not really solving the drug problem, that kid can just go out and buy another one. If the school would work in affiliation with the police and try and target the people that are supplying, that would be a lot more beneficiary, I think.

Stephanie: I don't think you can compare a school and a community. The school is responsible for us, and it's responsible not only for our education, but for our health while we're in their building on their premises. We are, or a majority of us are, under 18, and our parents are responsible for the things that we do, but the school is too, if we're on school grounds. So the school needs to watch their own back, at the same time they're watching out for the kids' well being and health.

Matt: I definitely have to agree. When you go to school, you give up and you accept certain rights. One of them could be privacy. In this case, it's used as a safeguard for the community. And although we may not be getting to the root of the problem, like Pat and Kate said, we're getting closer. And I think that by eliminating maybe one or two, it shows the community and the students that the school and the parents are concerned. They're concerned for the students' well being, they're concerned for the faculty's well being, they're concerned for the community's well being.

John: You bring up the issue of rights, and I think it's probably time to talk about that. Let's take a look at the side of the government in this, and let's explore the issue of personal rights. The Fourth Amendment guarantees us certain rights, it says that we will be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Do you think that what went on in Lockney, or what goes on here at Hunterdon Central, constitutes unreasonable search and seizure?

Patrick: I understand that when you attend a public or private education system, you do have to sacrifice or compromise some of your rights. Obviously, with the First Amendment, freedom of speech and everything, you can't be a complete vulgarian in school. But I think that they should be a little more lenient — you know, school systems and administrations — on violating or compromising the Bill of Rights inside a classroom. Because how is it so different, a vice-principal with a drug-sniffing dog breaking into my locker, from a Hessian and a Tory breaking open my tea chest looking for British contraband. You know, where do you draw the line? And I would just like to apologize for my previous application of the word "beneficiary" in the wrong context, to all of our grammar-savvy listeners.

John: It's interesting that you brought up the analogy of the tea chest, because that was part of the film, wasn't it? They talked about that. How do the rest of you feel about the Fourth Amendment and how it's applied, or not applied, in this case?

Kate: When you're taking away a student's Fourth Amendment rights, you're pretty much taking away their citizenry. I mean, I know they deny stuff to minors, but they're not things that we're guaranteed. We're not guaranteed that we can buy cigarettes in the Constitution. We're not guaranteed the right to buy alcohol, or enter a bar, but we are guaranteed the right to privacy. Not to sound like a raging anarchist or anything, but drug testing, I think, is one step closer to a police state. And that's pretty much what the Constitution was set up to avoid.

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