The Boardman Board of Educa- tion is taking a proactive approach to combating drug use by students, but it will be up to parents to decide whether the program is a success.
The plan may not be perfect, but none is.
Drug testing involves walking a tightrope between student rights, parental rights and court precedents that place limits on what a public school system can do.
The Boardman plan is voluntary and allows a parent to decide whether a student should be subject to random drug testing through the school year. The fee is $22.
Some parents know their children use or abuse drugs. Some attempt to deal with that challenge; some pretend it’s a temporary condition that the student will outgrow.
But many parents are unaware of a child’s drug use, at least until that use becomes painfully obvious through falling grades, moodiness or anti-social behavior, traffic accidents and other scrapes with the law.
When a student is using drugs — legal or illegal — the earlier the problem is addressed the better. The use and abuse of almost any drug can turn into an addiction.
So it would seem that for most parents — even those who are convinced that their child isn’t using drugs — that $22 fee would be money well spent.
Just as obvious, however, is the possibility that subjecting a child to random drug testing raises trust issues that could strain family relationships. That is something each family will have to deal with on its own, but there is certainly guidance available from local drug abuse agencies or even by doing an on-line search.
School discipline is an option
Boardman Superintendent Frank Lazzeri notes that test results will not be sent to the school, but will go directly to the parents. All options will be left to the parents, including sharing the results with the school, which would trigger in-school discipline. That may strike some as a strange provision, but schools have strict policies on responding to drug use. Such policies must be followed regardless of how the school district comes to learn of an infraction. And in some cases, parents may feel that subjecting their child to school-district discipline is the wake-up call the student needs. Others may choose to turn to an anti-drug agency, a doctor or psychologist or a member of the clergy.
Boardman is the first district in this area to try this approach, and it will be instituted during the coming school year in the high school.
Boardman parents and school officials will be able to evaluate the program and address its strengths and weaknesses.
Other school districts will have the advantage of Boardman’s taking the lead and will be able to decide whether a similar approach or one that is completely different would work best for them.
The only things that is known is that no school district and no parent can ignore the threat that drug use represents to their students and children.