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Doing it for The Children: The drug war against local control and parental responsibility

Opinion Editorial
September 28, 2006

By Mike Krause

John Walters, the federal “Drug Czar,” recently told the editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer: “I believe there will come a day when we’ll wonder what took us so long to do drug testing in schools.”

Not long ago…about the time Republicans became a majority in Congress, many conservatives considered the biggest threat to family values to be a powerful and activist central government. There may soon come a day when conservatives wonder how national drug policy became just another way for federal officials to usurp parental authority and local government decision making.

Last year Mr. Walters came to Denver to release the 2006 National Drug Control Strategy, which includes “more support for random student drug testing.” This support comes in the form of federal “grants” to the states ($7.5 million were released in October 2005 for this purpose).

According to the drug testing Q&A Web page, “To allow a potentially drug-using student to join activities that the student finds desirable (sports, chorus, band, driving to school, etc.) with no penalty is to disserve that student and to enable his or her entry into drug use.”

A “potentially drug-using student” is apparently any student not yet drug tested by the government. More to the point, this sends a very powerful message to young people-mainly that before you can engage in “desirable activities” you must first prove your purity to the state through the collection and examination of your urine.

Didn’t such decisions once rest with parents?

More than a bad idea, federally-funded student drug testing is part of a larger and disturbing trend where federal tax dollars are used to bribe local governments into implementing the authoritarian desires of federal drug war bureaucrats.

On September 19 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5295, the “Student and Teacher Safety Act of 2006.” The act requires “each state, local educational agency, and school district” to implement a federal mandate deeming reasonable and permissible “a search by a full time teacher or school official, acting on any colorable suspicion based on professional experience and judgment, of any minor student, on the grounds of any public school, if the search is conducted to ensure that classrooms, school buildings, and school property remain free of all weapons, dangerous materials, or illegal narcotics.”

Adding insult to injury, the bill would deny certain federal funds (issued under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) to localities that fail to implement the federal search policy.

States and local school districts-with parental involvement-are fully capable of setting school safety policies without having a one-size-fits-all mandate handed down from Washington, D.C.

Moreover, H.R. 5295-which was brought to the floor of the House without committee hearings and passed by a voice vote, thus making it difficult for citizens to know how their representatives voted-is designed to limit either discretion and common sense on the part of local authorities.

“The way this bill is worded, it strongly implies that the school district’s policy has to be one where they can conduct random mass searches,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Washington, D.C. based Drug Policy Alliance, “If the principal hears a rumor that someone is selling marijuana, he could search every student in the building. Our big concern is that school administrators will get the wrong idea about the limits of their constitutional powers.”

Federally coerced drug testing and random mass searches of adolescents do not teach kids how to be free citizens of a constitutional republic, but rather how to be good and obedient subjects of the state.

Perhaps there are at least some Colorado parents and elected officials willing to “just say no” to the federal government’s latest tax dollar-backed intrusions into local governmental and family affairs, even if it means giving up some federal bribe money.