Pubdate: Wed, 22 Oct 2008
Source: Advertiser-News, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2008 Straus Newspapers
Author: George Lightcap


Though the phrase has become cliche, it is no less true that "with
great power comes great responsibility." Though the Vernon Township
Board of Education indeed has the power to impose random drug testing
upon the general population of students, passage of such imposition is
an abuse of this power.

Public education is one of the true miracles of our democracy. Within
this 13-year crucible our children are taught the rules that will
guide their lives and set the course for our nation's future. It is
our responsibility as adults to provide models of citizenship and
moral reasoning to our children that they may grow to perpetuate and
continue to perfect our society.

The public school at its best serves for our children as a microcosm
of the larger society they will one day enter. It is our solemn
responsibility to provide for them a model of society at its best. It
is our responsibility to provide our children a place where they feel
safe, a place where they are valued as individuals and - perhaps most
important - a positive, nurturing atmosphere where they feel empowered
and encouraged to belong. Random drug testing does little to model
these tenets; indeed, it undermines the very lessons we want our
children to learn.

There is already in place in our schools a process by which we address
a student whose appearance and behavior are suspect of the influence
of drugs. It is not a perfect process due to time constraints and the
degree of parental cooperation. So be it. Democracy is often a messy,
time-consuming process. To randomly select a student to submit to a
drug test is not democratic. It is the easy way out, a knee-jerk
reaction, an admission of weakness. Random drug testing is not the
right thing to do.

The right thing to do is usually the most difficult. The right thing
to do takes time, patience. Rather than teach our children to fear us,
let us dedicate ourselves to continue creating and refining our
schools as communities where our children want to belong, want to do
the right thing. Creating and modeling such communities from K through
12 instills life-lessons that result in positive, contributive
citizens. Whatever the degree of drug abuse among our children in
school, random drug testing won't help. If we truly care about
children who use and abuse, our intervention should not be random. We
must use existing processes effectively to care for these fragile and
vulnerable children. We must also take the time to continue creating a
sense of community and belonging that invites and involves all of the
student body.

History has shown that governing by fear does not create and mold a
model citizen. Fear engenders repression, paranoia, frustration, anger
and rebellion. Are these the traits we want to teach our children? Is
this our legacy to the next generation? Are these to be the tenets of
America's future? Let us instead dedicate ourselves to creating a
place for our children where they learn to do the right thing because
they want to, not because they are bullied into submission.

George Lightcap


The writer is a teacher at Vernon High School, who says he is
"currently enjoying my twenty-fifth year as a teacher in Vernon
Township Schools."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin