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


After having read the feature (front page) article in the Vernon
Advertiser-News of Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008, I felt a response was in

Since the inception of Vernon High School some 30+ years ago, school
boards of the past and evidently of the present, have failed to
recognize and admit to the pervasive drug problem that exists today in
the younger population of our culture and particularly in our high
school student population including Vernon Twp. High School. In spite
of their "head-in-the-sand" mentality, illegal drugs are bought and
sold daily in our schools.

Many other boards of education throughout New Jersey, those with
progressive, forward-looking members with vision, take a proactive
stance to such problems. Many have addressed the drug problem in our
schools years ago and have attacked it head-on. They have created and
implemented sound drug policies in an effort to stem student
involvement in illegal drug use. When the legality of these policies
has been tested, our courts have found that they do not violate the
student's Fourth Amendment rights when applied as a requirement to
participate in extracurricular activities. The last time I looked, the
laws of New Jersey indicate that we are bound by those laws to provide
an academic education. Participation in extracurricular activities,
whether it be after-school clubs, intramurals, driving to school or as
an athlete on one of our many athletic teams, is a privilege that
students earn the right to be part of. At no time should these
non-academic offerings be considered an entitlement.

Considering the overwhelming support of our courts, including the N.J.
Supreme Court, of similar drug policies developed over the past 20 or
so years, I am appalled to read that our school board president, the
leader of this esteemed group charged with overseeing the educational
well-being of the children in our schools, a man with more than 35
years of experience in public education as a classroom teacher, as
well as a school administrator and who has served this community as a
school-board member for many years, would use this weak, sorely
out-of-date excuse for not supporting this long-overdue drug-testing

Recognizing the pervasiveness of drug-use in our culture today, drug
testing as a condition of employment, has become a common practice in
the business community as well. Following the lead of the business
world, Vernon's school leaders of the past have made it a requirement
that prospective employees must pass a drug test if they wish to be
employed in the Vernon Township Public Schools.

As President of our school board, Mr. Howard Whidden should be
enthusiastically encouraging the board to adopt this long-awaited
policy instead of letting his liberal-minded, uninformed view become a
stumbling block to its adoption.

In the words of Mr. Charlie Smigen, a Vernon resident who spoke during
the recent public discussion of this pending policy, "If this program
saves even one child, then the program is worth it." This single
statement regarding the safety and general well-being of our children
should, by itself, be sufficient provocation for our school board to
stop dragging their feet, and adopt this new drug policy without
further procrastination.

Barrie Beaver


The writer is a former Vernon teacher, and had been a principal at the
high school.
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