Taking back our school

Our position: In order to help solve LT’s drug problem, the school should randomly drug test athletes and immediately expel drug dealers.

It’s unfortunately been well known for quite some time now that LT has a serious problem when it comes to use of marijuana, nicotine products, and alcohol. But the LTHS administration and the LT community have just recently obtained precise information about just how bad it is.

The results of the Illinois Youth Survey that LT students took last semester came back to the administration at the beginning of this school year, and LT’s data have recently been released to the public. The data reveal that substance abuse rates for LT students are much higher than for surrounding school districts. According to a report on the data that was submitted to the school board, “Nearly half of LT seniors have experienced 2 or more consequences due to substance abuse that indicate they may benefit from a substance abuse assessment. (Consequences include use alone, forget things while using, been told by family and friends to cut down usage, gotten into trouble at school or with the law, or driven/ridden in a car driven by someone who was high).”

The LT administration has come up with several ideas as to what to do about these problems. Although the surest ways to stop or curtail youth abusing substances start in the home and with the family, there are several steps that LT can take today that will all create a healthier environment for LT students.

The first is the random use of drug-sniffing dogs inside school buildings and on school property, where the LT administration has most control. This can and should be part of a larger partnership with local law enforcement to create a meaningful and clear presence in our schools and ultimately to achieve a drug-free environment in our halls. Having dogs constantly in the boy’s bathrooms—which we all know are havens for drug use—is no one’s first choice, but once it becomes clear that students can and will be searched in school if an animal smells drugs on them, in their backpack, or in their locker, users and dealers will either stop or find alternative venues for their trade.

The second is random drug testing of all athletes. LT is a public school, so it cannot randomly drug test all students. But when students participate in a sport, they agree to be drug tested for steroids. The school should be able to test for use of other drugs at least one time per season per team. Those who fail should be suspended from the team for the remainder of the season.

This rule sounds harsh, but it’s really all about putting pressure on coaches. Coaches already do a great deal for their athletes. But all too often, if something is not obviously affecting an athlete’s performance, it tends to be less of a concern. Substance abuse needs to be in the forefront of coaches’ minds. And if their athletes are using, it needs to be a problem for the team.

The last measure is the immediate expulsion of dealers, including those found in possession of “dealer quantities” of controlled substances (i.e. 10 grams of marijuana or less). The easiest, simplest, and fastest way to address drug dealers is to make their lives difficult and remove them from school. With this rule in place, the cost of dealing will become too high, and the supply will dwindle. Without as many students who are highly motivated by profit selling drugs to each other, students will not have the same access to drugs as they do now.

This last measure may be the harshest. Some may object, saying it isn’t fair to force someone out of a public school. So those who successfully complete rehab and satisfy any criminal penalty which may be imposed by the law can then be re-admitted to school. If they still will not follow the rules, their right to a free education can be satisfied with online classes. Their privilege of attending a regular school should not be placed above the well-being and success of their peers.

Our drug problem will obviously never stop. But we should address it at its source, clean up our school, and reclaim it. And even though these actions will not yield immediate results, they should be taken without delay. In the long run, we can and should take back our school.