Opinion: Pike Co. board's decision to reinstate student drug testing "an opportunity to interrupt the flow of drugs" into the community

Appalachian News-Express, Pikeville, Oct. 7, 2015

A right to succeed
Drug testing policy in Pike schools may represent an invasion of privacy,
but with so much at stake, it’s an acceptable one


Privacy is a valued part of our society. We like to consider ourselves as free to do what we want, within limits. However, challenges to our rights to keep things about ourselves private are numerous.

Some of those challenges are wrong. However, in other cases, the rights of the many outweigh the rights of an individual to have parts of their life kept private.

Drug testing is one of those cases. The individual’s right to privacy could present a danger to the community as a whole.

One example is that of someone being drug tested for a job where they’re given control of machinery or given duties which could endanger people’s lives if they’re not controlled by someone who is in full control of their faculties. Jobs where a person is asked to drive vehicles for their daily duties are another example, since the person’s right to privacy, if allowed to supersede the public’s right to safety, could hide the fact that the driver is intoxicated or could likely be intoxicated.

Recently, the Pike County Board of Education reinstated drug testing for students within the district. And, while drug use by a student doesn’t present the same imminent danger as that presented by a person operating a piece of heavy machinery while intoxicated, there’s still a real danger to the community.

Pike County has been struggling for more than a decade with a drug problem of epidemic proportions. Beginning with prescription drug abuse and now going into methamphetamine and heroin use, we are fi ghting what is apparently an uphill battle against the negative effects of illicit drug use.

Once someone’s an adult, it’s often difficult to prevent drug use and abuse. However, if we can catch the problem when the person’s young enough, we can potentially interrupt a life-altering tragedy for that child. Children have a right to privacy, true. But, adults also have a responsibility to ensure that children have every opportunity to have a normal, safe childhood and can grow into adulthood healthy and well-adjusted. And that responsibility on the part of adults sometimes means we must uncomfortably interrupt a child’s right to privacy.

There are few actions a young person can take that can have the negative effects of illicit drug use. A drug testing policy at the schools is a good step toward helping stem that problem.

Drug testing in schools also offers an opportunity to interrupt the flow of drugs in a community. Often, to a drug dealer, a school is nothing more than an opportunity because, if they can get one child using drugs, then they can infiltrate a school and open a new market. Hopefully, the drug testing policy will serve as nothing more than a deterrent, with young people knowing the costs if they test positive. However, actually putting the policy into action will also catch issues at hopefully an early stage.

We’ve said it before: There is no absolute victory in the war on drugs. However, with resolve and with actions such as that taken by the Pike County Board of Education, we may be able to prevent drug problems from exploding and save lives. And that’s worth a little loss of privacy.

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