The piece of advice I heard most often before entering, and during, high school came in two words: “get involved.” Extracurricular activities, I was told, give students a chance to better the school, meet new people and make the most of their four years. I took the advice to heart and got involved in numerous ways. I’ve written for my school newspaper, helped out with the production of musicals, and even traveled abroad through a school club. I was later inducted into the French Honor Society and the National Honor Society. Last year, I even co-founded the school’s first philosophy club.
But this year I am barred from participating in any of it. The irony is that my school has made me ineligible for any extracurricular activity for what they believe is my own self interest. What did I do to deserve this punishment? I acted on my principles and stood up for fairness, privacy and dignity for me and my fellow students. My school’s reaction to me taking a moral position was to make me an “extracurricular exile.”
You see, over the summer my high school passed a mandatory random student drug testing policy. The Bush Administration had been pushing this policy to schools across the country. It forces students who participate in extracurricular activities to submit to humiliating drug tests — randomly and without cause.
Instead of improving the drug education and counseling capacity in our schools, the former administration chose scare tactics and unproven zero-tolerance methods. Hopefully the new Obama administration, which has already shown its support for evidence based practices on a number of issues, will rethink support of random student drug testing, so other students don’t have to go through what I did. It should be common sense that scaring students won’t help them any to make smarter decisions. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides all the evidence one needs. In a policy statement, the AAP cautions that student drug testing is unsupported by the scientific research and carries inherent dangers. Drug testing programs break down trust between students and administrators. They also carry the inherent danger of motivating some students to switch to different drugs that will leave the system quickly, like alcohol, or not show up in the tests, such as inhalants and herbal concoctions.
Last year, when I first found out my school board was considering a random student drug testing policy, I immediately began organizing a student opposition group. We worked to get the community involved. Students joined with parents and teachers, donning “Drug Testing Fails our Youth” T-shirts as we filed into the school board meetings. We even brought a toxicologist to speak with the board about the unreliable nature of the drug testing technology, the problem of non-professionals interpreting the test results, privacy and legal liability issues, and the general lack of research supporting student drug testing. To us it seemed the school’s arguments in favor of testing were based more on emotional rhetoric than data. But, in the end, emotion carried the day and random student drug testing went forward.
My parents and I understand that my school is trying to help students stay safe. But we also believe this invasive policy is the wrong approach. Perhaps worst of all, the policy overrules the judgment of my parents, who do not want to submit their child to this invasive program.
I feel it is my civic duty to hold on tight to the freedom that defines our great country. In fulfilling this duty, I am giving up my extracurricular activities in order to maintain my principles. I hope under the new Obama administration we can stop the spread of these programs, and redirect our scarce education dollars toward counseling and honest drug education and prevention. Other students shouldn’t be forced to choose between their principles and their favorite school club.
– Article from AlterNet.