The Student News Site of Taipei American School




Drug Abuse Prevention or Abuse of Power?

Picture taken on January 15, 2012 in Lille, northern France, of drug capsules. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

PRO: Drug Abuse Prevention

Teenagers often long for more freedom: the freedom to stay out late, to abandon a musical instrument, or to go out with friends. But freedom can also mean the freedom to hurt yourself and others. Freedom can mean the freedom to fall without a safety net. As students, we frequently accept the restriction of our freedom and pass the burden of decision-making to trusted authorities, whether these are the government, our parents or the school. Drug use is one case where we need our freedom to be restricted–for the safety of ourselves and others.

TAS uses a combination of random and reasonable suspicion drugs testing. All students are subject to random drugs testing unless their parents have signed a waiver, and individual students, even those with a waiver, can be tested at the Administration’s discretion. Reasonable suspicion testing means that students with a waiver are not above drug use rules.Since the people tested are chosen randomly, being tested carries no shame or implication of guilt, and discrimination is avoided.

Furthermore, random drug testing serves a reminder to the student body that drug use is not acceptable in the TAS community, whether this happens on or off campus. It is a useful deterrent for those who are tempted to use harmful drugs. If drug testing is random, even the most careful students have a chance of being caught.

We need drug testing to enforce school rules, and we need these rules to keep our school a safe place. Selling, buying, and using drugs are all capital offenses in Taiwan, and although most only get several years in jail, TAS should do its part to protect our health and our lives. Whatever disciplinary action the school takes, it certainly is not as severe as death or imprisonment.

CON: Abuse of Power

Stereotypes stick. And one stereotype in particular has stuck to people who take drugs: they are threats to be reformed or removed. This gives administrators of drug tests the power to completely alter how society views both individuals and groups.

According to Time Magazine, many pro-drug testing movements only target welfare recipients, promoting perceptions that the disadvantaged are more likely to use drugs. However, numerous studies have concluded that there is no discernible difference between the number of drug users among welfare applicants and that of the general population. This research did not stop Florida and other states from forcing applicants to take a drug test as a requirement for receiving welfare, not for the good of underprivileged people, but to reassure the public that supposedly dangerous individuals are unable to gain government assistance.

We are not so different from Florida’s government, not so far from using drug testing to exclude and demonize. Yes, we need drug tests in schools. But we also need to be aware that drug tests can reinforce negative stereotypes. Disciplining drug users encourages students to think of drug addiction as an offence to be punished rather than as a health problem. As being tested can carry as much stigma as actually using drugs, especially since not all the tests at TAS are random, tested students are exposed to slander.

Even when the intentions of test administrators are good, others sometimes jump to the wrong conclusions. People will see what they want to see, and it is all too easy to confuse twisted perceptions with reality.

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