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Response to "School district leaders put focus on drug use"

July 17, 2006

Letters Editor
Columbia Daily Tribune
Columbia, MO
     Thanks for your article, "School district leaders put focus on drug use" 7/15/06, that cites a problem common to nearly every community in America today, schoolchild drug use.
     Barely mentioned in the article was student drug testing, a strategy in use in thousands of schools today that successfully deters drug use, its subsequent violence and other social problems.  The results from schools currently using random student drug testing are fantastic; schools with testing programs are experiencing very few positive tests among the tested students, typically less than 1 percent.  And of those testing positive they frequently find few to no repeat positives.  Today thousands of schools use RSDT with several hundred testing all kids even though the all-test programs have never been adjudicated to the Supreme Court level yet.
     The compassionate concept is that RSDT is essentially a school health screening program for treatment purposes only.  What many schools have found is that once the kids know they may be screened for drugs, they simply quit using.  And those found to be involved typically readily admit it and vow never to do it again.  Since the intervention is early in the drug use, it is much easier to quit than after the use or addiction becomes entrenched.  Studies show if a kid can remain drug free through high school, the odds are very high that he will never become involved.
     The article stated, "...about 50 Columbia families have sent their teenagers to the (rehabilitation) program for treatment of drug addiction."  RSDT eliminates that problem, but only among the kids actually included in the RSDT program.  Unfortunately, under misinterpretations of the Supreme Court rulings, many schools limit the testing to only those involved in sports and extracurricular activities thus leaving behind a significant portion of the most at-risk drug using and violent kids who terrorize their schoolmates, entice them into drug use and disrupt the school learning environment.
     The most successful schools test all kids, but under intimidation of the ACLU threatening unaffordable lawsuits, the school boards of nearly two thirds of the nations schools are afraid to even formally consider that proven successful program.  That's why over 60 national drug prevention leaders have petitioned the White House and Congress for federal legislation to mandate universal health screening of kids for drugs in the model of the federal law that mandates a universal drinking age of 21.  It is fully justified to save lives, and currently the CDC reports indicate that nearly 3,000 overdose deaths occur EACH MONTH year in and year out.  Nearly all began with adolescent drug use.  Child drug use is a national health crisis that needs a national solution- NOW!  But until that happens, local communities will have to act for themselves to protect their children.
     Because the juvenile justice laws are so soft on kids who use and sell drugs, few are deterred by fear of punishment; no one wants to put kids in jail.  Therefore, the best approach a drug immersed community can use is to get the issue away from the lawyers and into the hands of the public health professionals by officially declaring their youth drug and violence problem to be a critical health crisis that needs a public health solution.  Documentation for such an official declaration can be found in local and national student drug use surveys, and in the testimony of teachers, parents and kids already caught up in the drug problem.
     A successful school health screening for drugs program that uses the proven technology of non punitive RSDT applicable to all kids will be totally legal, affordable, effective and popular.  Drug addiction is widely considered by health professionals to be a treatable disease, thus like health screening for TB, polio, or head lice, the program will easily withstand legal challenges.
     When Columbia's school officials are finally ready to do something that is guaranteed to eliminate its schoolchild drug use problem, it will authorize school health screening for drugs with treatment as the only consequence for a positive test.  Otherwise God help Columbia's children and their families because this deadly drug plague that has lasted for the past third of a century is certain to continue indefinitely.
DeForest Rathbone, Chairman
National Institute of Citizen Anti-drug Policy (NICAP)
1044 Springvale Rd.
Great Falls, Virginia 22066
703-759-2215 or 301-994-2733