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Illinois | Vienna High School institutes randomized student drug tests

News from my former hometown, Vienna, IL

Vienna High School, a small town high school in the very southern tip of Illinois, has announced plans to conduct randomized drug screenings on their student body. The plan will assign a number to each student, and randomly draw numbers throughout the year. It's important to note two things from those of us at Good Morning Liberty. We both attended Vienna High School, and we know those in the administration that instituted this policy. Also, we must also say that we absolutely agree that teenagers should not be doing drugs, and we fully appreciate the intent behind this new policy. As of right now, the only students included will be those that participate in extra-curricular activities, or those that drive their own vehicles to school.

I'd be lying if I said the percentage of high school students that have reported using some type of illicit substance in the past year isn't alarming. It's truly a troubling statistic. As you can see from the chart, around 15% of students report using some type of drug other than marijuana in the past year, although it is also important to note in that chart that the trend line is heading down.

What Vienna High School is trying to do is certainly commendable, and the decision will more than likely be supported by most parents in the area. Those that are against this rule will be portrayed as not caring about their children, or at least not caring about drug use among students at the school.

Our Honest Opinion

The consent by participation in extra-curricular activities is close to agreeable in my book, being that it is your choice to join or not join those activities. On the contrast, implied consent by way of "you drive your car to school" is further out of bounds, considering the fact that you are forced to attend the school. Were this a private school implementing the policy, I would be 100% on board, since you chose to attend that school. 

There's a fine line being threaded with this policy. On one hand, it's morally upstanding that this policy be included in your child's schooling. On the other, the policy removes your right as a parent to consent to your child being swabbed by school officials. Of course, that's if you want your child to participate in extra-curricular activities.

Will it work?

To me, it's not obvious that this policy will have the desired effect. When I was in high school, it was considered "cool" to break the rules. Any seemingly arbitrary rule was a target for rebellion among the students. Your "cool" points were likely to go up if you found ways around them, potentially leading to a higher social status. Sometimes, we even broke rules that we most-likely would not have otherwise broken, if they weren't rules. 

I would be slightly worried of an adverse effect from this new policy. That is, the possibility that students will attempt to break this rule, when they might not otherwise have participated in the dangerous act in the first place, simply for the excitement of breaking a rule.

In addition to the incentives created by this rule, we also have the dis-incentives created. For right now, only student participation in extra-curricular activities such as sports, Beta Club, FFA, etc., will require testing, in addition to driving yourself to school. What if this deters certain students from seeking out extra-curricular activities to fill their free time? What if the students that need those activities the most are no longer going to consider those activities as an option? If anything, the door should be open for troubled students to join their friends and pursue higher goals, but my fear is that those students will be further alienated. It's a well-intended policy, that might have unintended consequences.

Parental Responsibility vs. School Responsibility

We talk a lot about responsibility on our podcast. In our eyes, the refusal to accept responsibility in all facets of life has lead to the societal situations we see playing out in politics right now. 

When do the responsibilities of the parents end, and the responsibilities of the schools begin? In my eyes, this is yet another attempt to remove parental responsibilities from parents, and place them on arbitrary rules set by government (the school). 

If I were a parent, I would sign a consent for if given the opportunity by my child's school. That however does not mean that I believe all the other children should be forced to do so.

Drug testing kits can be purchased on Amazon for about $25. A worried parent should consider subjecting their children to random drug tests at home, not relying on the school to do their job for them. 

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In Liberty,

Charlie & Nate