The Mount Airy Board of Education made a well-reasoned, positive move earlier this week when it enacted a random drug testing policy for students taking part in extracurricular activities.
The policy does not infringe upon student rights, as a few have contended, nor does it somehow point the finger at all students, or put students in the position of having to prove themselves innocent of some alleged crime.
We say that because it is specifically aimed at students who choose to participate in extracurricular activities. While state and federal law mandates all students be allowed a free public education, there is no such legal obligation when it comes to these additional activities. Participating in those is a privilege which comes with certain requirements (attending practice, preparing beforehand, following instructions, and now being subject to random drug tests, among them).
This policy is set up with the right philosophy. It is not punitive in nature — a first offense requires a student to complete a board-approved intervention program. There is no suspension, the result of the test remains private, and the student is not publicly singled out in any manner.
Clearly, the impetus here is to find students who are using illicit drugs and get them help, to steer them away from their use without any formal punishment. The program is aimed at keeping these youth from making tragic, life-altering choices regarding drug use.
The second and third offense do become more punitive in nature, but that is necessary. What good is a policy with no consequences for failing to abide by its rules?
Even here, however, a student with a second positive test can return to participation in extracurricular activities, though only after a year suspension from such participation. This serves the dual role of applying some punishment for the violation, but more importantly gives the student and his or her family time to focus on recovering, apart from the distractions of those extra activities.
The only part of the policy we do question is the clause which also includes students who drive to school. While participating in an extracurricular activity is a privilege and not a right, it seems someone legally exercising their right to drive, whether that person be age 16, 18, or older, is being unfairly targeted by a random drug policy.