VALLEY PATRIOT EDITORIAL
The 2003 Youth Risk Survey found that 1 in 6 Haverhill High School students (17%) are using hard drugs. In response, Haverhill School Committee member Scott Wood, Jr. has proposed drug testing students. As a 2001 Haverhill High graduate himself, Wood has been close enough to see the seriousness of the problem. He believes that the time has come for action, and we agree with this conclusion.
Moves to begin random student drug testing will undoubtedly raise a hue and cry from those concerned about violating students’ rights. We respond – How about the rights of parents to send their children to a drug free educational environment?
How about the rights of teachers not to be confronted with stoned students, and others, not having had their fix, who are restless, violent and disruptive? How about the rights of the taxpayers not to bear the costs for defending lawsuits brought by parents whose son or daughter has been injured due to some drug-related crime or assault? What about the rights of parents not to have their children exposed in public schools to coaxing, intimidation and coercion by classmates to try drugs. Those concerned about rights need to consider the mission of our public schools and balance the rights of all involved in undertaking that mission.
The effects of drug abuse can vary from intoxication to death, with many variations of incapacity in between. Some parents of children heavily involved in drugs have had to take them out of public school and enroll them in secure private institutions. How many parents can afford that? The cost of drug testing pales in comparison to the cost of rehabilitation, the cost of lives destroyed and the human devastation that follows by doing nothing.
Drug testing in schools can be done democratically with measures to protect basic rights. When a community acknowledges that it has a problem, a referendum to institute drug testing can be voted on. If passed, parents who are convinced that the drug problem will never touch their children, or who believe that drug testing is inappropriate for whatever reason, can be excluded from the program.
They should be allowed to opt out, but in doing so, assume full legal responsibility if their child commits a crime or hurts someone while on drugs. The idea that drug abuse will only happen to “someone else’s child” is fast eroding. It’s time to confront the problem head on with drug testing in our schools. One thing for sure, pussyfooting approaches have failed and something more needs to be done.