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School Drug Testing

This topic has somewhat vanished from discussion (at least here in Spencer County, KY) recently.  I am leaving this page up just in case it rears its ugly head again. (April 2014)

This may surprise some people, but I am 100% against any sort of random drug testing scheme in our schools.  I honestly can't understand why anyone would support such a measure.  We need to be using every available minute to educate our youth. 

I have spoken twice to the Spencer County School Board expressing my feelings.  Below is the verbatim text of both addresses to the board:

Check out my interview from WAVE on November 19, 2012 by clicking HERE.


Presented Monday, January 24, 2011

Thank you, Madam Chairperson

My name is Jim Michalowski.  I have been a resident of Spencer County for nearly five years and have two children that currently attend Spencer County High School.  I have recently become aware through reading in the Spencer Magnet that this body is considering a drug testing program.  I would like to provide you with my insight on this matter.

I am, among other things, a retired United States Coast Guard Commander.  I proudly served all of you for nearly 26 years.  For over 17 of those years I worked in the area of Marine Safety and Security including three years as the Commanding Officer of a major marine safety unit.  Based on my extensive experience, I feel I am eminently qualified to discuss as well as intimately familiar with drug testing both of a regulated community as well as an internal group.

Our reasons to perform drug testing were clear and compelling due to the absolutely critical importance of a safe and secure maritime transportation system to our nation.  As the world’s premier maritime safety and security agency, it was imperative that our own members’ integrity be beyond reproach.  As an aside, during my 26 year career, I was tested on nearly 40 occasions.

After discussing this matter with several people involved with our schools, I am certain that there is drug use in the Spencer County schools.  What I am not as certain of is if the extent of use provides the compelling argument necessary to implement drug testing in Spencer County.  

Please do not interpret my comments to imply in any way that I support illegal drug use among our youth or anyone for that matter.

Certainly any reasonable person can see that a anyone under the influence of illegal drugs potentially represents a threat to both themselves and others around them.

Drug testing is currently in vogue since with a drug testing program it will appear that you are being proactive and “doing something.”  While a proactive stance is laudable, it is crucial that any action be well thought out.  Doing something incorrectly is often worse than doing nothing at all.  To that end, I have three major concerns that this board must address.

First, if I understand it correctly, the proposed testing regime will not include everyone.  If a testing regime does not include all students and staff, there will automatically be concerns regarding credibility.

Secondly, a successful program must address the entire life cycle of a positive test.  If a first positive test is handled correctly, it just may serve as the significant emotional event or wakeup call that turns a student’s life around.  If a complete program in not in place, we are just wasting our two most precious resources; time and money.

Finally, I have serious doubts regarding confidentiality.  I graduated from a high school twice the size of Spencer County over 30 years ago.  News like a positive drug test would have spread like wildfire and we didn’t have texting, IMs, email or social networking.

What I am asking for is that this board carefully considers their actions and does not allow the rule of unintended consequences to take over.  You must do it right or don’t do it at all.

Thank you madam chairperson

Presented to the Spencer County Board of Education March 26, 2012

Thank you for the opportunity to once again address this group regarding random drug testing of students in the Spencer County School District.  To refresh your memories, my name is Jim Michalowski.  I am among other things a retired United States Coast Guard Commander.  I feel that my extensive experience with all aspects of drug testing over more than a quarter century more than qualifies me to discuss this topic.

When I spoke to you last January, I addressed several issues regarding random drug testing of students.  In spite of recent events, I stand by my previous statement; particularly, there is still no clear and compelling reason for the school district to undertake this task.

I need to reiterate two important facts.  First, in no way should my comments be interpreted to mean that I condone the illegal use of any drugs.  Secondly, in no way do I oppose the school administration’s authority to deal with students that manifest signs of substance abuse at school.  My concerns are only with random testing without cause.

I have three particular concerns I wish to bring to your attention:

The first issue is the credibility of the whole process.  Unless the program includes everyone (meaning all students and all staff), there is an instant credibility problem. Any no-inclusive program will teach our children one thing – do as I say, not as I do is ok.

Secondly, anything that takes any child out of a classroom for whatever reason should be cause for great concern.  As it is, there is hardly enough time to cover required curriculum, particularly in difficult subjects such as mathematics.  Pulling a child from a class with no particular probable cause just makes no sense to me and will only exacerbate an already serious problem.

Finally, although I understand feeling the need to “do something”, I am not sure why anyone here feels that the government should be assuming a role that belongs to parents.  The drug-testing industry uses, and quite successfully I may add, fear as a marketing tool.  They attempt to instill the fear that if you don’t have drug testing somehow you are shirking your responsibilities.  This is pure snake oil but it sells. And make no mistake; this industry couldn’t care less about the safety of our children – only the safety of their bottom line. 

Random drug testing is a microcosm of the government’s failed “War on Drugs”.  What you’re talking about here is considering an onerous program to address something of which you really aren’t sure of the scope and even if you do implement it you will have no way to gauge success.

I’m not particularly interested in statistics since anyone with a modicum of common sense realizes that statistics can and often are manipulated to provide the desired outcome.  I also have zero interest in anecdotal evidence.

This was a bad idea a year ago and it still is.  I ask you to remember this: a bad idea, no matter how many people embrace it, is still a bad idea.  Thank you for your time and attention.


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