An Opinion Page –
By Dr. Clayton Todd Kirk – July 18, 2015
Nearing the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson was asked by a biographer to summarize his vision of American democracy in as few words as possible. After a moment of concentrated reflection, Jefferson is reported to have replied:
“Power must explain itself.”
Our laws, traditions, boards, and positions of authority tend to be based on this premise. Decisions that affect the electorate, should involve the electorate and time is needed for disclosure and buy-in. The more intrusive and unique the policy, the more time and input is expected from the electorate. The worst answer of all from any power structure is “we have made the decision and will now explain it to you.”
Although I believe the Blooming Grove Board and Superintendent Harrison are working from the best intentions with regards to the new Random Drug Testing Policy, it is the opinion of this writer that the whole thing has been instituted too quickly and virtually without any interaction with the public. Most recently, as we were informed by email, even the only public meeting originally planned has been cancelled – and yet the policy goes forward. Since many people are busy or traveling in the summer, and no one was informed of the new policy before the ending of last semester, I suspect many children will start school unaware that there even is a new policy, much less the specifics such a policy entails.
As support for my point I would like to review how the revelation of the Drug Policy has unfolded in the short few months in which it first became publicly known. On the last week of school during Spring 2015, we were given a brief newsletter announcing “Coming Changes.” The chief topic of this letter was the changing of the Dual Credit policy which would now allow Freshman and Sophomores to pursue college credit. There were also several other minor issues noted, but there was no mention of a new over-arching Random Drug Policy for students in the Fall. Seemingly out-of-the-blue on June 23rd, a notice as to the new Drug Policy was posted on the Blooming Grove Band website at which time I contacted the administration and got the copy of the new policy. The next day, a letter went out via email and was posted on the BGISD website which briefly explained the policy and had a link to the policy. As far as I know this was the first anyone outside of the administration had heard of the policy. As I have written about the specific policy previously, I will not cover my specific misgivings here. However, in that letter it was announced that we would have a public meeting about the policy on July 22nd. Subsequently the administration cancelled that meeting, ending the only possibility of a public forum on the issue.
So in sum: In the span of a little more than one month, the administration instituted a sweeping new drug policy ostensibly including drug screens and random urine tests with very little if no input from the community and then cancelled the only planned meeting to discuss and air grievances.
Examples abound supporting the idea that this policy is not ready and that the ambivalence towards dissent has its natural consequences. The policy has changed in several key elements since it was adopted. Example 1: The original policy clearly states that students who park on campus must pass a drug screen and be included in the random testing pool. Since the policy was first posted the administration has changed its stance on this issue and is no longer requiring tests for parking permits. The Superintendent has published an emendation to the policy in the form of a letter, but has not revised the policy itself. Example 2: The original policy clearly states that all students who park on campus and/or participate in extra-curricular activities must pass a drug screen prior to participating. My understanding is that the administration has changed this policy as well and yet there is no revised policy in print to reflect these important changes. I cannot help but wonder if these and other problems could have been ameliorated by a more extended and democratic process of adoption such is the norm in many other school districts. There is indeed a reason, both practical and philosophical why “power must explain itself.”
I therefore, along with many other tax-paying citizens of Blooming Grove respectfully suggest that we table the adoption of the Random Drug Testing policy until we can have a series of public forums to fully air and explain both the advantages and limitations of such a program.
I will leave it to the supporters of the current policy to explain what we have to lose by such a reasonable endeavor – or, at the very least, how rushing into the current policy will bring about a state of affairs more enviable than that that could be imagined by a reasonable amount of time, perhaps a semester, in which we air all of the problems inherent in such an undertaking and ensure public buy-in and cooperation.
Link to revised BGISD Random Drug Testing Policy: Official Drug Testing Policy_Meeting cancelled