Drug ruling confirms U.S. doesn't trust its children

June 28, 1995|By ROGER SIMON

It was the end of the '80s and there was trouble in Vernonia.

Vernonia, current population 2,035, is located in northwest Oregon and not in the Land of Oz, yet the townspeople there were shocked by what was happening.

What was happening?

According to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: "Students [in Vernonia] became increasingly rude during class; outbursts of profane language became common."

To which I say: Gasp!

And to which you might say: Hey, America has become increasingly rude. Try to get out a little more, Antonin.

But Scalia and five other justices concluded this week that the shocking problem of rudeness in Vernonia needed a shocking solution.

Which is why every middle and high school kid in America who wants to play sports can now be tested for drugs whether there is any reason to suspect them of drug use or not.

Further, the justices left the door wide open to test every school child in America.

How did we get from rudeness in Vernonia to testing millions of kids?

Well, according to Scalia, the rudeness was a result of drug use and in Vernonia "athletes were the leaders of the drug culture."

Which is why he believes that it is perfectly OK for kids to be forced to stand at urinals to give samples with adult monitors or teachers standing behind them.

That's just for the boys, of course.

Girls get to go into a toilet stall to contribute their samples. But an adult monitor or teacher will stand nearby so the girls "can be heard, but not observed."

I am not making this up. That is what Scalia actually wrote.

One thing occurred to me, however, when I first read about Vernonia: This is a town of just 2,035 and they don't know who the drug users are?

This also occurred to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing in dissent, who said of course they know.

Drug use in Vernonia was by "identifiable students acting in ways that plainly gave rise to reasonable suspicion of drug use," she wrote.

Kids were seen passing joints. A coach smelled marijuana in a room occupied by four student wrestlers.

And, as O'Connor pointed out, all Vernonia (and the rest of America) really needed was a system of "suspicion-based" testing.

You see two kids passing a joint? Test them. Not every kid in school.

But the vast majority of parents in Vernonia didn't want that. They wanted all the kids tested.

They wanted the schools to take over parenting from them.

You actually want parents in this day and age to keep track of whether their kids are on drugs?

Hey, parents are busy these days. Parents are working these days. Parents don't have the time these days.

Better the schools should do it.

Reading? Writing? Arithmetic? Yeah, that's important too. Schools should squeeze that in.

Privacy? Kids don't have privacy rights. As Justice Scalia wrote, student athletes are "not bashful" because they have to shower and change together.

Which is the reason Scalia cited for doing away with their "privacy expectations."

It occurs to me, however, that adults in country clubs and health clubs also shower and change together.

And I'm sure some of them also take drugs.

So shouldn't the Supreme Court order the random drug testing of anyone who showers where "shower heads are lined up along a wall, unseparated by any sort of partition or curtain?"

But I'll bet the adults who are currently championing the Supreme Court decision to test kids would howl like crazy if the court ordered the same tests for them.

They would talk about how they are innocent until proven guilty and how there should be a reasonable suspicion of drug use before testing.

All of which the Supreme Court has decided to do away with when it comes to kids.

O'Connor, writing for the minority, sadly noted that "many schools, like many parents, prefer to trust their children unless given reason to do otherwise."

But America prefers not to trust its children. Not any more.

Which I think is a mistake.

There is nothing to be gained by treating kids like criminals while they are in school.

Kids have plenty of time to grow up and learn that on their own.

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