Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

OUR VIEW: Parents and schools must control drugs (poll)

ed Updated: December 14, 2012 at 12:00 am

Anyone paying honest attention knows that prohibition of pot alone has done little to prevent kids from using it. Today’s children have no difficulty finding the drug. In fact, anti-marijuana legislation may have had the unintended and disastrous effect of giving parents and school officials a false sense of security.

Beyond question, prohibition put the trade entirely into the hands of underground dealers who never check IDs. It is potentially easier to keep children off cigarettes because they are sold by regulated vendors who put their livelihoods at risk if they sell to minors. Underground dealers have no such concerns.

Love or hate legalization, enacted by voters with Amendment 64, it is here and probably here to stay. It may well be the wave of the future for a majority of states, as Americans have tired of funding a drug war that is widely considered a joke.

Given that voters have spoken, we hope legalization reduces drug abuse among children. Advocates of 64 said it would, and they had best work toward that end. Legalization will have this positive effect only if adults choose to proceed in intelligent fashion, regardless of their feelings about 64.

The Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs may be on the leading edge of turning Amendment 64 into an asset. St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs has adopted a new drug testing policy that will begin in March with voluntary testing. It will progress to mandatory testing for students in the fall of 2013.

For the voluntary phase, school officials will ask parents to agree in writing to have their kids tested. School personnel will receive training to collect hair samples that will be tested in a professional lab. When lab results indicate use, suspected students will attend cessation classes and lose extracurricular privileges for a week. Second offenses will result in three-day suspensions from class and 30-day suspensions from extracurricular activities. Third strikes will result in permanent expulsions. Parents will be free to exact lawful consequences of their choosing at home.

Hair samples are expected to show drug abuse for the past 90 days, including use of cocaine, marijuana, Ecstasy and opiates — which includes hard prescription narcotics often taken from household medicine cabinets.

Public schools may have less latitude for mandatory testing programs, but there is no question they have the authority to adopt voluntary programs that give parents the option of subjecting their children to tests.

The actions of St. Mary’s High School may indicate an end to a dangerously false sense of security regarding the ability of law enforcement to keep children off of drugs. While marijuana prohibition had merit, it fell woefully short of alleviating the need for parents and teachers to lead the charge against drugs.

Unless the new St. Mary’s program stands as an isolated reaction to Amendment 64, we may finally see schools and parents step up and take responsibility for a problem they have neglected for generations by relinquishing it to law enforcement.

Parents and schools have direct daily access to kids. Cops and courts do not, which probably explains why laws against marijuana have had disappointing results.

The Gazette applauds St. Mary’s for taking its initiative to detect and discourage drug abuse among kids. We encourage all parents and schools to examine this model and consider their own options. Good going, St. Mary’s. Make this program work to keep future generations free from drugs.

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