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CAMPUS CORRESPONDENT : Drug Testing Makes High School Athletes Second-Class Citizens

July 02, 1995|Joe Goodwin | Joe Goodwin will be a senior at Concord-Carlisle High School, where he will captain the lacrosse team

CONCORD, MASS. — The sanctity of the Constitution has been violated. In last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding random drug tests of high school athletes, its doctrines were put aside.

The Fourth Amendment states every citizen is to be free from unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause. But by granting a school system the authority to single out students and force them to urinate in a cup, the Supreme Court has sanctioned just the type of program our forefathers wanted to protect us from.

The court has decided that high school athletes are not to enjoy the rights of other Americans and, in fact, are not to be considered full citizens at all.

How else can this travesty of justice be explained? It is not only unconstitutional, in my opinion, but illogical to tell millions of athletes (many of whom are 18 and eligible not only to vote, but to lose their lives in combat), that the country they have been raised to love is suddenly able to strip away their privileges?

Now that the court has made this distinction, an alarming precedent is set. Could the courts, with their newfound power of taking constitutional rights away from teen-agers, then say that the students can no longer express their opinions in speech or in writing, thus limiting the First Amendment? After all, as this decision says, they are not entitled to the Constitution's full protection.

This new drug-testing policy is also impractical. For at a time when every school system in the country is trying to teach more students with less money, wasting funds on drug tests seems preposterous. It seems even more ludicrous when you look at the statistics generated by the Vernonia, Ore. school district, whose policy was the basis for the Supreme Court decision. Of 500 students tested in four and a half years for three drugs, only 12 students tested positive. When the average cost (about $30 per test) is taken into account, the total expense is considerable. It shows that the program, as approved by the high court, is ineffective and costly. Ironically, a test for steroids--a drug used almost exclusively by athletes--is not being done because it costs about three times more than the other tests.

It would also seem that Justice Antonin Scalia, in writing the court's opinion, believed that drug use is only an issue in athletics and that only athletes are role models. Throughout my high school years, I've learned one thing about drug use: It reaches every clique in the school. From the Spanish Club to the debate team, drug use is pervasive.

The idea of the testing program is that kids will be afraid of testing positive and will be deterred by the negative examples of athletes who are caught. Even if this does work in athletic circles, other groups in the school would not be affected at all.

A senior member of the drama club can have as much influence over younger students as the captain of the football team. Thus, in following the court's logic, the only way to cut down on drug use through testing is to randomly test all high school students, which puts the constitutional rights of even more Americans in jeapardy.

Supporters of the testing argue that when a student enters a public high school, he or she is a temporary ward of the state, and, therefore, subject to the school's autocratic control.

And yet it is just this view that has polluted the public schools with discipline and attendance problems. For when a school takes on duties that should lie only with parents, it takes on the negative side effects that come with these responsibilities. The natural resentment an adolescent feels toward his or her parents is transferred to the school. High school kids cease to see their school as a forum for learning and begin to see it as a despot seeking to control their daily actions. And the school system does not have the natural ties of family to justify these rules. This will further undermine further the positive climate necessary for learning. Insubordination becomes rampant, attendance falls. To be sure, if a student disrupts the classroom and makes it impossible for others to learn, it is within the school's rights to discipline that student. But the Vernonia decision grants the school the power to punish students who have given no cause to be singled out.

It is possible that this drug testing would be an effective tool in cutting down teen drug use; I believe it will not.

However, even given the most favorable outcome, it would still be a Pyrrhic victory. For it would leave one monstrous casualty: the words and ideology of the U.S. Constitution.

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