Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jun 2003
Source: Star, The (South Africa)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers 2003
Author: Terrence Lockyer
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


The call by David Quail, MPL (The Star, June 17) for compulsory random
drug-tests in schools is cause for concern.

For one thing, Quail seems unable to grasp that substance-testing in
schools is not comparable to that in sports. Sports competitors choose
to pursue a given code.

In so doing, they commit themselves to abide by its rules. This means
that they consent to substance tests. Learners, on the other hand,
have no choice but to attend school.

Quail's proposal therefore amounts to an outright denial of children's
constitutional rights to bodily integrity and personal liberty.

In addition, many of the substances banned by sporting bodies are not,
in themselves, illegal, and those who use them are not liable to
criminal prosecution. The substances for which Quail wants learners to
be tested are illegal, and the stigma attached to them is far greater.

It is unfortunate that Quail seems so willing to expose learners to
this stigma to further his own political agenda.

It is even more unfortunate when one considers the recorded cases of
mistaken tests that have led to false accusations of drug use against
children whose denials fall on deaf ears because of the supposedly
irrefutable proof given by the test.

His willingness to use shoddy arguments and to ignore the rights of
children is very worrying.

If his views are shared by the Democratic Alliance as a whole, one can
only wonder what other rights and freedoms that party would like to
deny the people, and especially the children, of this country.

Compulsory drug tests suggest to children that they are always under
suspicion, and must constantly prove their innocence to their elders.

In such a climate of universal suspicion, children may well see no
reason to trust the advice of people who clearly do not trust them,
and the battle against drugs will be lost entirely.

Rather than viewing children all as potential criminals, Quail and
others should concentrate instead on providing them with accurate
education about the very real dangers that substance abuse poses to
their futures, their dreams and, indeed, their entire lives.

This is not the sort of quick fix Quail would prefer, but it is the
only way to build a culture of life-long responsibility.

Terrence Lockyer

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