Monday, July 01, 2002

Drugs in Schools Revisited

Skip Olivia, Policy Analyst for the Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism writes:

I've been enjoying your site for some time, and just thought I would offer a quick insight into this morning's decision. I was fortunate to be at the Court this morning for the decision, and I saw a lot of very enthusiastic people leaving the Court and rushing to their cell phones to proclaim the good news. One gentleman just started yelling into his phone "5 to 4! We did it! We did it!"

I was pleased with the ruling, as were my bosses. But I think one thing that has been overlooked in today's media orgy over vouchers is the disgraceful ruling of the Court on the Oklahoma drug testing case. That was actually the decision I had gone to the Court to see this morning, and while I was not surprised with Justice Thomas's opinion, it was nonetheless a bitter pill to swallow. On the plus side, the continued denial of students rights will provide an even greater impetus for the school choice movement.

And today Reason Express offers this take on the Supreme Court drug ruling:

Cup Runneth Over

The Supreme Court gave school administrators a green light to give their students drug tests despite little evidence that those populations are riddled by drug abuse.

Justice Clarence Thomas's opinion for the court makes it clear that schools are allowed to do just about anything to a student just as long as it is couched as a way to make the school safer.

"A student's privacy interest is limited in a public school environment where the state is responsible for maintaining discipline, health, and safety," Thomas wrote.

Thomas added that "the nationwide drug epidemic makes the war against drugs a pressing concern in every school."

But at no point did those arguing for increased testing claim that the populations they want to test -- in the case before the court, a girl who wanted to join a school singing group was first required to give a urine sample -- pose a threat to the health and safety of other students.

Were drug users running rampant at a school, causing all manner of discipline and security problems, a drug test would presumably not be needed to identify them. So the group the court explicitly wants to target is students who have been exposed to drugs yet are not threats to school operations.

Only the mighty drug bogeyman could possibly justify such overkill. Otherwise, if school administrators came to the court warning that Freemasonry posed a threat, the justices would immediately jump to determining just which set of students should be polygraphed. No need to find any actual harm; inchoate fear will do.

The usually squishy American Academy of Pediatrics, in a friend-of-the-court brief, noted that the harm of widespread drug testing of students will be hard to see, but potentially very real. Imagine a shy, introverted kid who lets a few hours in the wrong backseat or basement deter him from joining a club or activity he really loves. Will that make the school healthier, or more dysfunctional and dangerous?

In any case, when prospective members of the chess club cue up, cups in hand, they can be sure that their ritual public humiliation will help preserve social order.

Reason editor-n-chief, Nick Gillespie, also offers his take on the Supreme Court drug decision in Piss Take.

In more ways than one, the U.S. Supreme Court has emphatically helped to pave the way for America's kids to vacate the nation's public schools.

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