Drugs, Privacy and School Policy

Brace yourselves, I’m about to be angry and bitter.  Those who’ve run into me in the last week know this is not a new attitude lately.

Our local paper featured this article this week: Wood County Schools institutes drug testing.   For those of you who aren’t feeling reading the whole article, the sum up is this: Wood County Schools are instituting a drug testing policy for students who participate in extracurricular activities and those who drive to school.

And this sounds fine.  I mean, it’s a great idea, particularly considering West Virginia’s top spot as the state worst hit by the opioid crisis.  I know why they’re doing it.  I know all the reasons.  Again, great idea.  In concept.

Okay, for a bit of backstory – I’m a product of this school system.  I suppose it got me into college in the end, but I don’t have glowing things to say about it.  My opinion of it is such that, even if it weren’t for the opioid crisis, I would not be surprised if they instituted this policy.  It always felt like they prized obedience above all other things.

But I suppose that there are two things that really tick me off about this policy.  I mean there’s a lot of things, but there are two things specifically.  Firstly, there’s the just-off-the-mark nature of it.  The article says the policy is “not to punish students.”

Whelp, let’s talk about that.  If you’ve failed a drug test, you’re in trouble.  Trouble comes with punishment, in some form or another.

The policy is meant to “act as an early intervention.”  Okay, fine.  Good thinking.  But, once again, if you need an intervention, you’re in trouble.  You will probably be punished.

The policy will also help “identifying a problem and getting the student help.”  Maybe I’m too paranoid, but it often feels like getting help for a drug problem always brings a legal authority into it at some point.  I suppose this is justified if you’ve done something illegal, but punishment through the legal system (which you will get if you’ve done something illegal) isn’t help.

Also, the article says the policy means “parents and guardians are contacted” when a student fails a drug test.  Any parent worth their salt means now that student is in trouble.  Deep trouble.  And will be punished on top of whatever other punishment they will get through the school or the legal system.

About the only saving grace, at least that covered in the article, is “a second drug test is conducted on the sample to eliminate false positives from prescription medication or certain kinds of foods.”  Tell me that’s done before everything else happens.  Even if it’s not, lie to me for my peace of mind.

And even if I’m wrong, even if everything is discreetly handled, is focused on treatment, there is still going to be social fallout.  Nothing quite like social punishment to top off an ice cream sundae of guilt, addiction and stress.

The second thing that bothers me is much more succinct.  It looks like an invasion of privacy to me.  It feels like an invasion of privacy.  I gets these kids are trading an invasion of privacy for a privilege, but…let’s just think about what that means.  There’s been a lot of talk about how much privacy a minor should have, so lets draw a very clear line right here…

If you tell a child or a teenager they don’t need privacy as a minor, they are not going to care about it when they achieve majority.  They’ve already been told their whole life they don’t deserve privacy.  How do you know the benefits of something you’ve been told you don’t need?

Alright, I’ve said my piece.  And, no, I don’t have a solution.  In fact, I’d be willing to say this is probably the best solution they could have come up with.  It may work.  It may help a student who desperately needs it.  It may…may…do some good.

But, for Pete’s sake, let’s not pretend.  Let’s not lie and say it’s not meant to punish students when punishment is going to come with it in some way or another.  Let’s not lie and say it’s not meant to violate students’ privacy, or they don’t need privacy, or they don’t deserve it.  Let’s call it what it is: a policy set in place to blatantly use a privilege to catch some students who are addicted to drugs and get them through whatever else comes with it before they’re 18 and it goes on their permanent record.