Watch Me Take The Bar
Watch Me Take The Bar
This blog, originally started as a chronicle of my taking the bar, is now a look into the mind of an attorney in solo practice in Port Clinton, Ohio.
Monday, August 21, 2006

Board Member Bassett, Dissenting

Tomorrow, the school board on which I sit will vote on a policy to subject anyone who is involved in an extracurricular activity or drives to school to random drug tests. It is a proposal I will vote against.

I have wrestled with this issue more than almost any other issue I've dealt with in the two and a half years I've been on the school board. Drugs are a scourge, and they affect our entire country. They can end careers, rip apart relationships, bring lives to an untimely end. To believe Port Clinton is any different is folly.

You can't just test any student you want, according to the law; however, those who are involved in extracurriculars are subject to testing, because extracurriculars are a privilege, as is driving.

My first concern, and the predominant one in my decision to vote against this, is this: Extracurriculars are opportunities to enhance student life. They are to offer positive outlets for a student's energy.

Who needs this more than a student who may feel there is some sort of gap in their life? A gap they might choose to fill with substance abuse? Every minute that student is in at French Club, in a play, or playing basketball is a minute they aren't hanging out with a crowd that might influence them in the wrong direction. Every minute in an extracurricular is an opportunity for a positive experience with the school; an opportunity to realize there are other things to life than getting high.

A person who is on the fence is who I fear will be hurt by this policy. A person who is a recreational drug user, but also has some interest in a play or going out for baseball, may decide it's not worth sacrificing an activity they are already into for one they think they might enjoy. And that, I fear, is a tragedy.

I am also concerned about the rationale for this program. In the process of determining whether or not to undertake this policy (and it should be noted that all of the Board members have worked very hard to come to this decision), we were presented with stark evidence of the drug problem. We were not, however, presented with reasons why this would help eradicate it.

At one of our meetings, a police officer I have worked with over the years and have great respect for, spoke. This guy is on the front lines of the war on drugs. I looked forward to his presentation explaining why drug testing would solve the problem. Rather, it was an emotional appeal directed to getting us to understand there is a problem.

I understand that. I think everyone understands that. Kids we see as "bad kids," kids we see as "good kids," all kids understand there's a drug problem.

Unfortunately, he did not provide me with any evidence this would help. I was unconvinced by the testing vendors, as well, who suggested that drug testing would help.

There are compelling arguments in favor of random drug testing. Those who are in extracurriculars and don't use drugs have the right to expect that to be a drug-free zone. There is student safety involved. If it helps a student get off drugs, the program will demonstrate worth.

But I remain convinced that the cost of removing an alternative to other choices for students is greater than the potential of detection and possibly -- possibly -- intervention. It is for that reason I will vote no tomorrow.

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