Pubdate: Tue, 09 Apr 2002
Source: Lodi News-Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Lodi News-Sentinel
Author: Charlie Hammond
Note: Charlie Hammond is an Acampo resident and a regular News-
Sentinel columnist.


Privacy is disappearing from the American lexicon. That old paranoia that 
someone is watching you, well, it isn't so paranoid anymore.

Between stop-light cameras, credit card purchase databases and creeps with 
handicams gathering footage for America's Funniest Groin Traumas, we 
Americans are scrutinized like wild-eyed loners at a gun show.

The most massive affront of this type is a growing movement within high 
schools to drug test students, particularly those who participate in 
extracurricular activities. Like so many bad ideas, this one sounds good at 

Drugs are a problem in the world, in America and in our schools, so the 
solution must be to submit our children, with or without pretense, to 
handling their own urine.

Granted, I'm no law professor, but it would seem that this blanket offense 
violates a fundamental principle of our justice system, which holds that 
you're innocent until proved guilty.

If a kid wanders around the football field for five hours, chasing a ground 
squirrel when he should be in class, I understand the presumption of drug 
use. But if a student excels academically, plays sports and somehow manages 
to participate in clubs and charities, as do many teen-agers currently 
subjected to screening, common sense tells us we needn't worry.

And if they do use drugs, well, they must take all the right ones.

The justifications for testing that I've heard are stretched thinner than a 
Victoria's Secret nightgown on Dolly Parton. A school board member in the 
Midwest believed the local high school marching band should be screened 
because drug-addled kids could mishandle their tubas and injure other kids.

Bad instrument playing would be the more logical concern, but judging by 
the quality of pop music today, this isn't high on our list of drug-related 

People should not casually be subjected to a drug test. It is an awkward 
experience in which you must wait in a doctor's office until your bladder 
swells to the size of a beach ball. Then a nurse hands you a ludicrously 
tiny plastic cup and instructs you to fill it to a prescribed level. The 
mechanics of this act I need not discuss.

At last, you emerge from the bathroom and must present your waste to this 
same nurse who gives you an embarrassed grin, as if to say, "Good boy, now 
you get a cookie."

I understand testing for people in positions, like heavy-equipment 
operation and surgery, to cause immediate, severe physical harm to others. 
For my trucking job, I am regularly tested, something I endorse, because if 
I snort cocaine off the dashboard, I am just not paying attention to the road.

However, our high school students - provided they avoid driving - are in 
jeopardy of harming little but their academic records if they smoke 
marijuana behind the gym and flunk a calculus quiz. More to the point, they 
go to school to become educated, productive members of a society that 
rewards their efforts by infringing upon their most basic rights.

Without moralizing drug use, let us face the uncomfortable truth that kids 
experiment to find their own footing, and that drugs, in this days and age, 
are a likely part of that process.

Instead of fretting over students' every move, school administrators and 
parents should focus on providing their charges with solid intellectual and 
moral foundations so they can decide for themselves whether they want to 
destroy their lives with substances - like they will every day of their 
lives after graduation.

Give high school students the benefit of the doubt. We hope they will act 
like adults, so let us begin by treating them as such, respecting the 
privacy of those who have earned it, reserving our worry for those who need it.
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