By Dr. Clayton Todd Kirk – July 2, 2015
On June 23, 2015, the Blooming Grove I.S.D. made public its intention to institute a new Random Drug Testing Policy effective Fall Semester 2015. According to this new policy every student who participates in any extracurricular activity or parks on campus must submit to a drug screen before beginning school and agree to submit to random testing throughout the school year. Parents must sign a form, making the following affirmations, among others: 1) “I agree that all extra-curricular activities are a privilege,” 2) “I consent to allow the school to randomly test my student,” 3) “I understand that if I do not sign this form, my child will not participate in any activities or park on campus, and 4) “I consent to the specific vendor (drug testing company) selected by BGISD.”
Some families are embracing the new policy wholeheartedly, while others are less comfortable. The key argument in favor has been “safety,” and those advocating this position are comfortable with the idea that safety trumps concerns about privacy, parental prerogative, civil rights, and 4th Amendment concerns (unreasonable search and seizure). Other parents are less excited about the proposition and change in policy.
Whatever is eventually decided and carried out, I believe that a new policy of this degree of change and magnitude should be very carefully considered and debated by the citizens of the district. At the very least, it would seem appropriate to have a public forum before this policy is fully implemented. As it stands now, the policy was implemented first, without significant input from the community, and then a future meeting was announced (July 22nd) whose only stated purpose is to “explain” the policy to the public – not to debate, adjust, or amend the policy. At many school districts, the time-table for implementation of a major change in policy such as this is months or even years. Therefore, I believe the policy should be tabled until it can be fully discussed by and disseminated to the tax-paying public. I believe this is the right thing to do for the following reasons:
- At the very least, if the policy is adopted the school can move ahead in good faith knowing that they have significant “buy-in” from the public with all concerns and issues fully vetted.
- The new policy raises significant privacy and parental rights concerns that have not been adequately aired or discussed publicly.
- As this policy is random, it will be testing very young children as well as children who have no probable cause for having committed a crime; they essentially will be presumed guilty rather than innocent, in violation of the common-law norms of democracy.
- The legality of the policy is dubious at best and by no means universal for schools in our general area – particularly the parking policy which is relatively unique.
- The policy is expensive, and ties up funds that we desperately need for other more important projects.
Although I believe that this policy was constructed in good faith by people genuinely concerned about the safety of the community, I do not think it should go ahead as it is with so little time between announcement and implementation. This policy, given the radical change of procedure it proposes and engenders should have sufficient time to be considered by the citizens of Blooming Grove. As far as I can tell, we have nothing to lose by meeting as free taxpayers and having a serious democratic discussion of the relevant issues. On the other hand there is much potential for trouble if we move ahead with what may be an ill-conceived policy, however honestly intended.
Link to pdf file: BG Official Drug Policy