Pubdate: Sat, 27 Aug 2005
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2005 Messenger-Inquirer


Assaults on personal freedom and the right to be free of governmental
intrusion into our lives and our bodies, however cloaked in good intentions,
remain assaults.

This week, Lt. Gov. Steve Pence was in Owensboro promoting drug education
for children, which we applaud. Whatever can be done in an appropriate
fashion to educate young people about the dangers of drug abuse and prevent
them from becoming victims is worth exploring. We support Pence when he
says, "We've got to find a way to keep our kids from going down that road."

But it's what Pence said next that raises our hackles and should have
parents up in arms.

According to Pence, along with enforcement and treatment, the state is
working on new ways to deter kids from becoming involved with drugs and
alcohol, including the possibility of drug testing of high school students.

In other words, let's place thousands of innocent teenagers under suspicion
in hopes of finding the guilty few, forcing them to submit to a
government-sponsored testing system. This would be an affront to individual
freedoms and a departure from our basic legal foundation in this country
that says citizens are presumed innocent and not suspected of criminal
activity in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

The police can't burst into our homes without a search warrant signed by a
judge, who signs only after he or she is convinced that some illegal
activity, based on real evidence, has occurred. As individuals, we have that
same right to be left alone.

Testing all high school students for drugs for the deterrent effect may
cause some to refrain. But is that enough of a benefit to trample on the
individual freedoms of all the rest, not to mention the message they receive
from their elders that they are not to be trusted? We don't think so. Do we
not want our schools to be safe, comfortable, inviting places for our
children? Treating them like juvenile offenders fails that standard.

Some will say that reducing or eliminating the scourge of drug abuse should
be done at any cost, and protecting young people from its ravages is even
more paramount. But at some point, the value of individual liberty must
enter the equation.

There are many ways, beginning with education, to help young people
understand the dangers associated with drug abuse. We are confident that
many of them are effective, appropriate and able to get the job done without
the need for anyone to surrender their personal freedom.
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