Editorial: Times Change 7/19/02

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David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 7/19/02

Times change. Back in the early 80's, even Ronald Reagan thought drug testing was too invasive, and that was only federal employees. By the end of his two terms, he had no such compunction. Now, the government extensively and enthusiastically promotes this grotesque practice. Incredibly, a few schools have even targeted math team and glee club participants for monitoring of their bodily fluids.

I've tried to imagine how we would have reacted in my high school (also in the early 80's) if they'd told us we had to urinate in a cup, with a teacher watching, to prove our chemical fidelity. I'm certain we'd have thought they were crazy. And I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have stood for it. We would have heaped ridicule on the notion, we would have condemned the invasion of privacy, we would have shook our heads in disbelief at the bizarre turn of events.

Such reactions are deserved today. The forces promoting school-based drug testing are motivated not by care for the well-being of our nation's youth, but by greed. They want the taxpayers' money -- your money -- to line their own pockets. If you have any doubt of that, you should have attended the industry's conference, convened mere weeks after the Supreme Court's infamous Tecumseh ruling. There's so much money at stake, they even charged admission -- over $300 -- to the groups and businesses they're trying to sell to!

Fortunately, not so many schools have yet to go to this extreme. Most educators are sensible people. They understand that a trusting, respectful and friendly relationship between youth and adults does more to help young people grow up healthily than surveillance and punishment and dilutions of constitutional rights. They understand that after-school programs, offering positive ways of spending one's time, are a better use of scarce education dollars than urinalysis. They would rather see kids participating in activities then not, especially the ones who have crossed the line into potentially hazardous activities. They would rather hire a music teacher than a chemist. And they probably don't relish the thought of having to stand there in the bathroom watching kids urinate and taking care of the samples.

Schools will certainly come under political pressures to conform to the government- and industry-promoted drug testing orthodoxy. In some cases, the drug warriors will get their way, ambitious politicians looking for political hay will force it down the schools' throats, maybe government grants will even coax schools down the smelly path of chemical spying. It will always seem hard to oppose them, as in all recent times.

But times change. I think this time they've stepped a little too far, and are going to get pushed back. Youth will stand up for their privacy, and many teachers and principals and parents will join them. Perhaps it will even catalyze a rebirth of civics education, a renewal of awareness in the schools of the constitution and the bill of rights, a new dialogue on privacy and freedom and what they truly mean.

As always we must seek the seeds of hope embedded within the clouds of repression. Perhaps those seeds are waiting to be found in the aftermath of a poor Supreme Court ruling.

-- END --
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Issue #246, 7/19/02 Editorial: Times Change | Dutch Government Plans to Restrict Coffeeshops, End Ecstasy Harm Reduction | Nevada Marijuana Amendment Draws Flack, Praise | Canadian Justice Minister Floats Decrim Trial Balloon, Takes Flack from All Sides | Barcelona Conference Hears Link Between AIDS and Injection Drug Use -- Clinton Regrets Not Lifting Ban, Bush to Keep It | New York Marijuana Reform Party in Petition Drive to Win Ballot Status | "We're Your Good Neighbors. We Smoke Pot" -- Jeff and Tracy One Year Later | Alert: DEA Moves to Schedule 2C-T-7 | Newsbrief: Cow Dung Sniffers Have Malaysian Authorities Confounded | Newsbrief: Baltimore Homicides Continue, More Juveniles Dying Than Before | Newsbrief: Noelle Bush Imprisoned | Media Scan: Time Magazine on The Philippines, Drug Testing Protest Video Highlights | The Reformer's Calendar

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