This letter is in response to the Monday front-page Update story, “City, county schools enforcing drug testing as a deterrent.”

Being a taxpayer, the first questions that popped into my mind after reading the article were ones of cost: How much does a drug test cost? Dealing with percentages, and assuming that everyone in the programs mentioned will be tested at some point during the school year (to do otherwise would be to discriminate), what is the projected yearly cost of the testing program?

Meridian Public School District Superintendent Sylvia Autry is quoted in the article as saying, “The number of students tested will be based on a percentage, not to exceed 20 percent of the extracurricular students.” How many tests does 20 percent represent?

According to the article, the first round of random sampling at West Lauderdale middle and high schools produced all negative results. In other words, whatever the Lauderdale County School District paid Rush Workforce and Wellness for its time and professional medical services was basically a waste of taxpayer money. Considering the negative results, could not this random testing program be considered as sort of a “looking for a needle in a haystack” type of operation?

Don’t get me wrong. If a student is displaying symptoms of drug use or abuse, by all means they should be tested — and dealt with accordingly. The “reasonable suspicion” policy, which the article states has been in effect for several years, certainly seems to be a right approach to recognizing and solving the “drug” problem among our youth.

If we were really as concerned as we say we are about the drug-abuse problem among our youth, wouldn’t it make more sense to increase our prevention efforts than to become aware of the problem after the fact? Is not an ounce of prevention worth more than a pound of cure?

Drug dependence is a psychological sickness. Suspending a student’s extracurricular activity is not a cure, and neither is expulsion from school.

The article goes on to state, “To resume their extracurricular activity, the student will also have to attend a drug counseling program and provide a negative retest — both at their expense.”

The latter part of this statement should more appropriately read: “at the parents’ expense.” How much does the counseling program cost? How much does the retesting cost? What happens if the parents’ budget isn’t well enough to perform these mandatory obligations? Is the student to remain out of school and be “left behind”?

The West Lauderdale negative test result enlightens us to one fact: Random testing is not a cost-effective way to combat drug abuse among our youth.

With the superintendents and teachers always complaining of not having enough money to adequately make ends meet, does it make good sense to spend time and money planning and implementing snipe hunts?

I would deeply appreciate Sylvia Autry or David Little addressing the issues raised by my questions in this letter of response. Why? Because my tax dollars are paying their salaries, as well as paying for the bags in which they hope to catch the snipes in.



Bobby W. Bryan

Meridian

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