Last year, when we ceased the drug testing of all 6th-12th graders, a different attitude developed among our students. Knowing that our hands were tied (other than to use the drug dogs), the students adopted the attitude that they were in charge. In doing so, failures skyrocketed, respect for authority plummeted and a sense of complacency settled in.
As a faculty and administration, we had to develop some type of program to help combat the lackadaisical attitude of the students. We decided that perhaps the best way was to give some type of reward to those students who were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Thus we began a Friday morning tutorial that allowed students who were caught up in class assignments and passing to sleep in and not come to school until 9:30 a.m. Those who were behind or failing in at least one subject had to come at 8:00 a.m. for tutorials.
This, for a time, seemed to raise the students' level of performance a bit. However, we still found that only a small number of students wanted to excel. The vast majority were perfectly content to be mediocre, even though they had the ability to perform far beyond what they were doing. I attribute much of this to the rise in drug use and students not being held accountable for it. They were no longer afraid to talk about what they had done out of school and even seemed to take some pride in making sure that we as faculty members knew that they were drinking heavily and using drugs ... as they wanted to. Performance in the classroom plummeted and morale among the faculty was low also.
Personally, at the end of the spring semester of 2002, I never wanted to step into a classroom as a teacher again. It took all the strength within me to walk back through the doors in the fall. However, I do feel that because we were able to begin drug testing those in extra-curricular activities, the performance and attitudes of these students are much higher this year. On the whole, the attitude and performance of the students I teach has been much better, and at least renewed my spirit to consider continuing to teach.
However, the use of illegal substances is still extremely high in our small community, particularly in those students who do not participate in extracurricular activities.
What is the ultimate outcome of this controversy? That question may never be answered because we as a community and school district still do not have the ability to do what we think would help all students perform better — mandatory drug-testing for all 6th-12th graders. However, from my vantage point, the ability to test those involved in extra-curricular activities has at least helped raise the level of performance of a portion of our student body.
Lisa Mosley is a resident of Lockney and the art teacher at the high school.