SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


To Pee or Not to Pee
By Kristenia Johnson


September 21, 2009
Monday PM

I would first like to say that while I agree that drug testing should be performed and more frequently with no interference from coaches, it is not the only problem facing children and teens today. I do not know if drugs or alcohol were involved in the recent suicides but there certainly was no reference of them in the police reports as I saw. This should show that a mental or emotional issue was prominent and along with the debate (and action) of drug testing should be the debate (and action) of helping our young adults with their mental and emotional wellbeing.
I am quite proud at how Mr. Evan Bolling has grown up into a very wise young man (as has come through in his writing) and obviously shows a great knowledge and interest in the US Government, from the teachings of his father no doubt (one of my favorite teachers for this very  reason). I do feel we have much to learn from our past and from court decisions as relates to this issue, however, I believe we must not allow them to sway our decision away from taking action.
If Mr. Bolling wishes to recite court decisions to back up his opinion, I feel I must also in order to keep my rebutal on the same level. One of Mr. Bollings concerns was if we allow for selective drug testing of any student it will scream discrimination. In New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985), it ruled that schools do not have to follow the customary requirements of having probable cause or a warrant in order to carry out searches. Instead, school authorities must follow only a simple standard based on "the dictates of reason and common sense."1 I can understand that a great pressure would fall on teachers to bring about a student's name for drug testing, however, I would hope that with the correct procedures in place and the teacher to never be known, that if they have concern for a student, that they would be willing to step forward and make it known.
Mr. Bolling also referenced Vernonia School District v. Acton a landmark case indeed. I believe in order to understand a decision one must understand the history that brought about the decision. In the late 1980s, school authorities in the small logging community of Vernonia, Oregon, noticed a sharp increase in illegal drug usage and a doubling in student disciplinary problems. They observed that student athletes were leaders of the drug culture. Officials responded by offering anti-drug classes and presentations, along with conducting drug sweeps with dogs. After these education and interdiction efforts failed, a large segment of the student body was deemed to be in "a state of rebellion," according to findings of the Oregon District Court.1
I do have one major concern with comparing Ketchikan's current situation with the Vernona case 20 years ago. That is when I think back to my high school years (7-10 years ago) and I recall those I knew who did drugs and/or participated in underage drinking, and those I was suspicious of, most of them did not participate in student athletics. And those that did participate in athletics carried a decent grade point average and appeared to be respectful of others, in other words, some are the least likely to be suspected.
One final case reference, Earls v. Tecumseh in 2001 A panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that drug-testing for eligibility for extracurricular activities violated Oklahoma public school students' rights. This decision however, signaled a deep rift between two federal circuits in how to interpret Vernonia. Presumably for this reason, the Supreme Court accepted the case for review, with a decision expected in 2002.1 "On remand from the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls, we vacate our prior opinion, order and mandate, and we remand to the district court to grant summary judgment in favor of the Board of Education and the School District."2 The Student Activities Drug Testing Policy (Policy) adopted by the Tecumseh, Oklahoma, School District (School District) requires all middle and high school students to consent to urinalysis testing for drugs in order to participate in any extracurricular activity.3 The decision held that students in extracurricular activities had a diminished expectation of privacy (they showered together), and that the policy furthered an important interest of the school in preventing drug use among students.
I wish you to re-read that last sentence above. "...the policy furthered an important interest of the school in preventing drug use among students." Do you wish for Kayhi to reach a level of drug abuse and disciplinary problems as seen in Vernonia, Oregon in the late 1980's or do you wish to take action for what is best for Ketchikan, for your children and understand that whatever court decisions have been made, they were not made in Ketchikan, or Alaska, and they were not made based on the present situation of Ketchikan's youth. 



Kristenia Johnson

Received September 18, 2009 - Published September 21, 2009

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Ketchikan, Alaska