Why are high school athletes always placed on a pedestal?
The question needs to be answered before the Ripon Unified School District board considers adopting random drug testing for students involved in athletics and other extra-curricular activities.
The Ripon High student leadership class has already debated the issue with 19 students in favor of drug testing and 22 against. The debate - as always - was centered on health and safety as well as privacy concerns.
But here’s a question that no one ever seems to debate: Why are we more concerned about the health and safety of athletes than the rest of the students?
Yes, it is a privilege to participate in athletics. And, yes, students need to meet certain expectations, such as having good grades, attendance, and citizenship. But to assume making sure participants are drug-free is a condition that should be applied just to athletes is like saying you really don’t care about non-athletes.
All schools — including Ripon Unified — have a zero-tolerance policy toward drugs. Obviously they can only do so much. But once you step up the game and use taxpayer dollars to pay for random drug testing for only athletes and those in extra-curricular activities you are making athletes a privileged class.
The hot button issue, of course, is invasion of privacy. And while courts have ruled those under 18 don’t have the full repertoire of rights that adults possess, the privacy issue is a little lame in a school setting. Someone whose judgment is impaired by any type of drug use is a danger not only to themselves but to others. And while it may be fine for one to do that in the confines of their own home, it isn’t fine in a public place such as a school where the safety of others is placed in jeopardy.
As far as the health debate, yes athletes can do irreparable damage by using performance enhancing drugs and other narcotics. But so can non-athletes.
The entire idea behind random drug testing is to prevent the use of drugs. It is accomplished primary through the fear of being detected. It is the same fear that may stop students at schools that randomly use drug-sniffing dogs to check lockers and cars on campus from bringing drugs on campus. You should note, by the way, that schools that use drug-sniffing dogs do not distinguish between the lockers and cars of athletes and the lockers and cars of non-athletes.
Fear is a good thing. It often stops us from doing stupid things. Someone may dare you to jump off a 10-story building using homemade paper wings, but you’ll likely not to do it out of fear of what will happen. Random drug testing employs fear in the same fashion.
Odds are there are athletes who are dabbling in drugs just like there are non-athletes dabbling in drugs.
Parents - and taxpayers - should expect all or none to be subject to random drug testing.
If this debate is being driven by basic health and safety concerns then all students had better be subject to random drug testing. If not, the Ripon Unified School District board runs the risk of looking as if they only care about the health and safety of athletes.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.