By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Oh, the things we do to children.
Police in Phoenix, New York (Oswego County) “have joined forces with the mayor's office and a local pharmacy to combat prescription drug abuse by teens.” Apparently the Village purchased drug test kits to be handed out free of charge to parents in the Phoenix school district. Besides issuing the wrong remedy for the problem of prescription drug abuse, police and the Mayor are encouraging destruction of the parent child relationship. Even worse is how government is encouraging the violation of the individual rights of child.
First of all, drug test kits available in pharmacies do not test for prescription drugs. They test for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and a host of other illegal intoxicants. No test kit from any pharmacy tests for the ocean of pharmaceutical drugs available on today’s market. The rationale for encouraging parents to test their children fails on its very face. Either that, or police and the Mayor’s office are lying and trying to trap children who imbibe in prohibited drugs. Maybe police and the Mayor’s office are hoping children will snitch on each other when they test positive. No matter how you slice it, the drug test kits are not a rational response to the problem of prescription drug abuse.
Then comes the issue of the wedge to be driven in the parent child relationship. Imagine the logistics of it; a parent confronting a child and demanding a drug test. No child I know would skip along and quietly obey. At first blush, even asking the question raises issues with the child. It is the same as asking any random adult. The demand to take a drug test is an invasion of personal privacy and for most, the issue becomes who has the right to know what is in my body.
I have taken (and yes, passed) a drug test. The entire process, from being asked to do so to actually taking it was offensive at its’ core. When people say, “if you have done nothing wrong, what do you have to hide”, I just cringe. What I have to hide is my privacy and my right to it.
At some level, a teenager is the same way. They are at an age where they are morphing into individuals with their own identity and place in the world. The moment their parents approach them and demand a drug test, it is going to be an attack at the core of the child’s identity. It will create distrust. I can imagine the child pondering “if my parents don’t trust me” or “why are they doing this to me”. Every person feels a sense of self and will see a demand for a drug test as a personal affront. There is no nice way about it because by even asking a child to take a drug test implies that the parent already suspects the child and that the parent will not believe the child. In my ever so humble opinion, this is not the type of relationship we would seek to foster between parent and child.
I am a parent of a teenager and have the battle scars to prove it. The demilitarized zone is breached every time the issue of boundaries comes up. Every parent believes they have the right and authority to set the rules of the house and demand compliance therewith by underage tenants for whom we are responsible. That is my philosophy as well.
Yet society already tells me that there are limits to the rules I can set and the rights I have as a parent. There are also certain “inalienable” rights that every American citizen enjoys by birthright. My rights cannot interfere with those of my child. I cannot harm my child, I cannot deny my child an education. Society limits my ability to punish. My rules and my authority are usurped depending on my lifestyle. My parental authority, as broad as it is, has limits.
At the same time, my child has an inherent and inalienable right to privacy. All children do. There is a certain zone of privacy that cocoons us and upon which at an early age we all learn and believe shields us from intrusion. We have limited our government’s ability to invade that sphere by requiring an objectively reasonable and rationale reason to invade a person’s privacy and self. In Phoenix, they are trying to end run that obligation by having parents do the job because some would argue parents have the authority to demand children take a drug test.
I support the inalienable right to privacy. At any stage, from newborn to emerging adult, each child has the basic human rights that each of us enjoy. Clearly at younger ages, our ability to compel compliance with invasions of a child’s privacy are easier. But I respectfully submit, that the child’s privacy rights are with them from birth.
Can a parent demand a child take a drug test? I am sure the law provides such latitude. Does the child have the right to refuse without fear of pain or punishment? On its’ face it would seem that the parent can take punitive action against the child for willful refusal to comply with a demand to take a drug test.
It is to me approaching the immoral to demand a child take a drug test; especially one that does not test for the intended target substances. I opine that the child’s right to privacy trumps drug testing demands. The child should have the right to refuse without fear of punishment. The parent should be without remedy for a refusal. Shame on the police and the Mayor’s office in Phoenix, New York for putting parents and children between the horns of this dilemma.
This whole mess is part of our national insanity called the War on Drugs. While some folks banter about how to drug test the entire population, consider this one fact. If we cannot keep drugs out of our nation’s most secure prisons, then how will we ever keep them out of a free society? Drug testing everyone, punishing everyone, and stripping everyone of their privacy are not solutions to our nation’s drug problem. Neither is prohibition.
Police and the Mayor’s Office in Phoenix are reacting to a drug problem among highschoolers. There are actually two problems. One is a drug use by teenagers problem. The second is a drug distribution business among the teenage population. We don’t see an alcohol problem and there is not much bootlegging going on by moonshiners. The reason we do not is because we as a society have taken control of the alcohol market and wrestled it from the hands of criminals. If we put our drug market under government control and out of the hands of organized crime, then we can keep it out of the hands of children. At the same time, we could then stop such attacks at the relationship between parent and child as that proposed in Phoenix.
Officials in Phoenix need to rethink this new policy. Distributing drug test kits to parents so they can start testing their children is wrong. It is not a solution to the drug problem being targeted. Putting parents into the confrontational relationship with their child is not a policy society should encourage. Invading the privacy of our children is a constitutional affront and attack at the very core of rights inalienable to every natural born citizen of this nation. Randomly drug testing our children is not who we are as a people. It is immoral and ill advised.