Last night, the Panther Valley School Board voted 5-3 to end a proposed random drug-testing policy for participation in athletic and extra-curricular activities.

The action came because the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the district arguing such testing was unconstitutional.

Rather than spend a lot of taxpayer dollars defending the suit, the school board opted to end the policy.

It's unfortunate because such a policy may save the lives of youngsters either experimenting in drugs or having become addicted to them.

The basis of the ACLU suit, filed on behalf of a single family in the Panther Valley district, was that it was "an unconstitutional invasion of privacy."

There is a serious drug problem throughout the region. Drugs have been tied to deaths of various school students in Carbon County. How many more young people have to die before it is deemed that a serious enough problem exists to warrant such testing?

It's understood that the Panther testing was directed at students taking part in athletic and extra-curricular activities. The testing might have saved lives of individuals who take drugs which can affect their heart or lungs or other organs while they take part in strenuous activities.

Also, it would introduce students to the real world where sometimes drug testing makes the difference in obtaining employment.

There is still drug testing available under voluntary and suspicious circumstances.

Under the ACLU's argument, it would invalidate screening at airports because there has been only a small percentage of passengers who had weapons or terrorist designation. It would mean weapons checks could occur at court houses because there haven't been many instances where weapons were confiscated. Therefore, isn't it unconstitutional to subject all of us to such searches?

Drugs are as dangerous as other weapons. Someone participating in athletics and is using drugs not only risks hurting himself, but also other participants.

The Panther Valley School Board was, in practicality, right to dismiss the drug testing policy as proposed. Already taxpayers are struggling to pay for education. The last thing they need are more court costs.

It's very unfortunate that school officials can't protect students in a reasonable manner – which Panther Valley School Board was attempting to do with its drug testing policy – without being taken to court and having to expend large amounts of money to defend itself.

The action last night by the Panther Valley School Board defended taxpayers, but is potentially harmful to students.

Unfortunately, the ruling will resonate to other school districts. And many students who need help from substance abuse aren't going to receive it.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]