Monday, September 14, 2009

Burning Question Of The Day: Drug Testing Student Athletes?

Burning Question of The Day: Should High School Athletes Be Drug Tested?

My brother’s football coach is in the news lately, because he is requesting to do random drug tests on the players. Drug and alcohol use, particularly marijuana use, is completely rampant among the high school students and the town in general—I would know from experience. In fact, more than one of the players on the football team received citations for Minor In Possession and Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance (marijuana) over the summer, and ended up being suspended for the first few games of the season. To put things in context, growing up, I was one of two of my circle of 15-20 friends that didn’t receive an MIP—and my group of friends would NOT be considered “partiers”. It was not uncommon for many of my classmates and friends to actually smoke weed with their parents. More than one teacher at the high school was busted for supplying students with weed.

Anyway, the coach suspects that most of the team is drinking and smoking marijuana on a regular basis (he’s probably right), and this spurred his request to begin random drug testing. The coach has received a donation of a season’s worth of drug tests, so there would be no cost to the school. All but one player’s parents have signed consent for their children to be tested. The player whose parents did not consent would not be tested, and would not be penalized for not being tested.

The first occurrence of a positive test would result in the player’s parents being notified, and probably some hefty extra conditioning. If the player tests positive a second time, they would not be allowed to play again until they had completed a drug and alcohol treatment program.
This has created a BIG uproar in the hippie town that I lived in, and many of the citizens (who are not the parents of the team members) are screaming that the testing violates the students’ civil liberties, or would open the door for other liberties to be violated. They are concerned that the player whose parents won’t consent to him being drug tested really will be penalized, no matter what the coach says. They say that it’s unfair that only the football team has to submit to testing. The issue will go before the school board in the next few days to see whether or not they will allow the drug testing to occur.

Personally, I am typically pretty leery of policies that may violate civil liberties. However, in this instance, I am in complete support of the drug testing given the fact that the parents have consented to it. For me, that fact (coupled with the fact that there’s no cost to tax payers) makes it a non-issue. Further, I believe wholeheartedly that marijuana use is an epidemic in the town, and to keep ignoring the fact that it’s an issue does a disservice to every one of the children in the town. Yes, we could argue all day about whether or not it should really be illegal, but the fact of the matter is that it IS illegal at the time being, and if they disagree, they should lobby to change the law, not just break it. Lastly, extracurricular activities are a privilege, not a right. Often, a higher level of academic achievement is required to participate in extracurricular activities, and I don’t see any reason that asking players to agree to a higher level of drug and alcohol enforcement is any different.

But what are your thoughts?


  1. I think they should drug test. If the parent doesn't sign the constent then that player doesn't play. Like you said, its a privilege to play. I'm going to be stupid here and ask-what civil liberties is it violating if they are already violating the law by drinking underage and using drugs? I also think that the penalities you listed aren't very steep. Keep us posted on what happens.

  2. I'm torn but I'm leaning towards making them get tested. When I was in high school a girl got kicked out of a show for being seen smoking off-campus, but she was eighteen.

    The fact that the parents are consenting and there is no penalty to not being tested is a good symbolic gesture that the coach really does hold them to a higher standard. I guess the argument of what happens off-campus isn't the school's problem is my issue.

    But if the parents have agreed, and maybe the eighteen year olds decide for themselves, I think it would be okay. It's like you you said, they can be punished for not getting good grades, arguably a lot of that accomplishment happens off-campus with homework and projects, so why shouldn't that be different.

    Until marijuana is made legal it needs to be treated for the drug it is currently classified as, and until the drinking age gets reduced(which I personally really think it should!) the same goes for alcohol.

  3. My first high school in Indiana received a grant from somewhere for random drug testing. Anyone that was involved in any extracurricular activity (including things like band, choir and other clubs or organizations, not just sports) and anyone that drove to school (we had to have a parking permit) was required to participate in the random testing. Yes, there was outrage, but it wasn't costing anyone money, and like you said those things are a privilege. I think it's a responsible practice and prepared kids for the real world. Many workplaces drug test as do professional sports. We also had a no tolerance. Anyone caught drinking or doing drugs was suspended - this included those that had a positive random test. I can't remember what further punishments were.

    In the case of your brother's high school, I think it's a responsible practice by the coach, but needs to be across the board. If you want to play, you're going to get tested. Some students shouldn't be held accountable when others are not.

  4. Hmm. I'm rather of the opinion that it is none of the government's or anyone else's business what I choose to put in my body, so long as I do not cause physical harm to another person or their property (or, like, animals and stuff).

    (An aisde: I don't mean to argue that drug addiction doesn't cause considerable trauma to friends and family, like say, the children of an addict. On the other hand, the children of a business executive who spends two hours a week at home can be pretty fucked up too, and no one seems to think that's worth legislating over. Bad parenting is bad parenting, whether or not drugs are involved, and addiction an entirely different matter.)

    Likewise, I am opposed to drug testing outside of criminal cases. Period. What people do in their own private time is their own business. If they're not performing, penalize them for the performance issue. Don't test for drugs. To do otherwise is to enforce a morality that, frankly, more than half of the country doesn't share (considering that around 60% of adults admit to trying marijuana at least once in their lives). (Full disclosure: I smoke the ganja, from time to time.)

    If you're talking physiological effects, tobacco cigarettes and alcohol are considerably more harmful than marijuana. Why are tobacco and alcohol legal and weed illegal? Morality. The law has no relationship to actual physical effects whatsoever. (Which is not to say that marijuana has no negative physiological effects; I'm not one of those stoners.)

    Now, the situation gets, I think, a little more complex than my black-and-white statements above because the test-takers in question are minors whose parents have consented to these tests. Whether parents should have such rights over youths who may, in some cases, be mere months from legal majority is another question; in our system they do. And, much as I think all that shit ought be legal, I don't think kids should be doing it--interferes with development and such.

    So I'm a touch torn. I like that there are no negative repercussions for the student whose parents refused to consent--otherwise would be, in my mind, flat-out illegal, the school taking on the functions of the state (though I suppose it is an organ of the state). A drug and alcohol treatment program for a second offense seems pretty goddamn harsh, though I suppose if you can't quit, given the consequences, then perhaps you do have a problem.

    I kind of have to ask--so what if the kids are doing drugs and drinking? If their grades plummet (as they are wont to do when one seriously abuses mind-altering substances), fail them, and don't let them play football or whatever for that reason. If they are caught driving drunk, put them through the legal system.

    Ultimately, people need to be smart. I drink like a fish, and I've never gotten a DUI. Why not? BECAUSE I DON'T DRIVE WHEN I'VE BEEN DRINKING!!! Personal responsibility is key--and ultimately, people are going to do what they're going to do, and suffer the consequences.

  5. ...and, because I ramble, part two!

    As to the question of drug crime--our nation's draconian approach to drug use flat-out does not work. It wastes huge amounts of money--I'm too lazy to look up whether it's tens or hundreds of billions for the drug war. Incarceration does not work to stop addiction--treatment programs like AA are far more successful--and prison terms are usually hugely out of proportion to the crime committed (you have a lot of rapists and murderers who don't get life when drug dealers do). On the other hand, you have Portugal, which decriminalized practically all drug offenses and made more services available to addicts, and has seen a steady drop in drug use and addiction in the ten years since decriminalization.

    An extra caveat--everything I wrote applies only to public institutions. As far as I'm concerned, private institutions can do whatever the hell they want, as long as it's legal.

    (I should point out that politically, I consider myself a sort of neomarxist, and I just rattled off a bunch of libertarian social ideas. So anyone who might read this that's afraid universal healthcare is Stalinism might think of that.)

  6. I agree. I don't know why someone would be upset by drug testing- the testing detects something ILLEGAL.. why should student athletes be allowed to participate in something that sets them as an example for the student body, when they are breaking the law?

  7. We had random drug testing in my high school. I think it's fine to do. If these kids are supposed to be representing the school then I think they should be tested.

  8. leave it to an Oregon hippy town ;)


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