Pubdate: Fri, 22 Mar 2002
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2002 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Ben Bartlett
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)

Note: Ben Bartlett grew up in the Athens area and is a junior political 
science major at the University of Georgia.


Recently, the doors of Oconee County High School were locked -- not to keep 
people out but to keep students in -- as members of the private security 
firm RAID Corps. swept the school with drug dogs in search of any signs of 
drugs or weapons. Oddly enough, school officials reportedly received no 
complaints from parents in the days immediately following the search. In 
light of the high levels of protest seen when other schools around the 
country have implemented similar lockdowns, it seems unlikely that no one 
disagrees with the tactics. So why the silence.

Perhaps would-be critics simply see no point in protest, for the courts 
have thus far upheld the legality of such lockdowns. But just because a 
policy may receive passive community acceptance doesn't mean there are no 
grounds for objection.

The tactics employed at Oconee County High School and countless other 
schools are only part of a much larger national trend of sacrificing 
student privacy for safety. School security is a major concern, and we are 
thankful to see administrators determined to keep students safe. But the 
intrusive means by which officials often obtain security today may do more 
harm than good.

We seem to have become so preoccupied with protecting our schools that 
we've lost sight of what we're fighting for. Our goal is to offer students 
a school environment that is conducive to learning, but instead of fighting 
for students, we have begun fighting against them. Much can be said about a 
society by the way its citizens treat their children, so what can be said 
about our society when children attend schools that could be mistaken for 
prisons. We can turn our schools into fortresses, but conditions will 
continue to deteriorate as long as we ignore the problem that students 
remain unmotivated to think.

I've tutored high school students who were unable to perform long division. 
The most troubling aspect wasn't their lack of understanding, but that they 
didn't seem to care. This will not change as long as students must check 
their dignity at the door each morning. To do well in school, students must 
first respect themselves, but how can they when they are treated 
collectively as potential criminals. Drug searches like the one in Oconee 
County aren't implemented in response to any specific wrongdoing. Used as a 
preventative measure, they imply a constant suspicion of guilt. If 
expectations are set so low, then what kind performance can we predict.

I've heard students say they weren't the least bit bothered when drug dogs 
searched their backpacks. To me, this seems far more troubling than a few 
students with small amounts of marijuana on campus -- the final product of 
Oconee High's drug search.

The problems of school security and student drug use may not have any easy 
answers, but imagine, just for a moment, what might happen if we were to 
begin focusing on policies that afford students a little more dignity, not 
less. What if instead of asking what they can legally do, administrators 
started asking what they should do. What if we were to begin treating 
students not as potential delinquents but as the future leaders of our 
country. Certainly, it would be naive to think that a concept as simple as 
treating students with greater respect could solve anything -- or would it. 
Perhaps, but it wouldn't be a bad place to start.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager