- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Ronald Reagan-era rules of the War on Drugs are slowly unraveling, thanks in large part to innocence projects and the decriminalization of marijuana.

Indeed, the political classes’ lost art of mandating law and order means states and localities are shying away for busting people whose car ashtrays are laden with “roaches” or joints named Mary Jane.

Possession of “medical” marijuana is legal, and so is recreational use. In fact, you can buy, sell, trade and transport marijuana — and tip your peace pipe to the U.S. Constitution for the privilege.

Now, though, comes a burning question: Should schools, public or private, have the right to conduct drug tests on students?

The question springs from an announcement by the principal of Stephen T. Badin High School in Hamilton, Ohio, where random drug tests are scheduled to begin in January.

“This is in best interests of the students,” Principal Brian Pendergest said. “The impact of drug use on young students and their families is stagger the ing, and our community is not immune to this issue. Being proactive on drug testing is the appropriate action on our part.

“We’re talking about a health and wellness issue, not a punitive issue,” he said. “For their own well-being, students should not be doing drugs. We want to help them make the right choices.”

The principal is correct about the staggering impact drug use has on communities, especially if he means illicit substance abuse, including opioids, codeine/soda pop mixers, tobacco, vaping and “synthetic marijuana.” No argument there.

Also, Mr. Pendergest is spot on regarding the “students should not be doing drugs” angle. No argument there, either.

He also said the results of the drug tests, which are mandatory, would be strictly confidential between the school, the student and the family. Each student will be randomly tested at least once per school year.

The plan, as it now stands, calls for a student’s first positive test to be discussed with the family and the third could be dismissal.

What do you think? Too tough? None of their business? A long time coming?

Begging for the “Just Say No” days of the 1980s and early ’90s?

Well, back then, lots of young people said no, but the grown folk were doing their own thing — smoking and dealing crack, smoking PCP until they inhaled their last breath, snorting cocaine from the West Coast to the East.

Now the opioid crisis is upon us, with folks old and young using what they know are deadly compounds. America’s opioid epidemic is so out of control, antidotes such as naloxone are part of first responder and schoolhouses across the country.

So, what’s a schoolhouse of 550-plus eighth- and ninth-graders to do? Just say no?

No. Badin, a Roman Catholic school, is trying to get a health-centered handle on things. But they can’t do it alone.

Parents, guardians and the faith community need to step up their games. They need to educate, educate, educate about drug use — and they need to do it now.

Know why? Singer Bobby Brown of the original New Edition group said recently that he tipped Nancy Reagan to the “Just Say No” angle. This is the same Bobby Brown who drank and drugged himself out of the music industry and out of Whitney Houston’s life (and recall that Houston was a substance abuser, too).

How well Badin High School’s mandatory drug testing plan works for students is anyone’s guess at this point. For sure, it could become legal fodder.

For now, let’s take it as a wake-up call — a much needed wake-up call.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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