Drug testing on minors: is it the hero or the heroin?

Heroin is a powerfully addictive and illegal substance that has swept Santa Clarita, a city in Los Angeles County, California. This drug has unfortunately struck teenagers and young adults ages 18 to 27, according to CBS News. However, the drug has also managed to creep into the hands of younger people under the age of 18. Due to the approximately 18 deaths in the past year, the William S. Hart Union High School District in Santa Clarita has instituted parental-authorized drug tests to ensure the students are not under the influence of heroin as well as other illicit substances. Though the newly-designed program raises concerns regarding the privacy of the district’s students, it is absolutely necessary in order to prevent the many tragedies that would otherwise occur.

The recent program began as an option for parents who suspected their child might be using illegal drugs. Parents enroll their child in the program, and because most of the students involved are minors, they do not have legal authority to refuse participation in the program. Some believe this is a violation of the child’s rights and those against the testing argue that the program should be voluntary. But it is not likely that students will voluntarily subject themselves to drug testing, regardless of whether they use illegal substances or not. Therefore, permitting the parents to take responsibility to ensure the safety of their child is highly important. The parental concern for the child is the primary reason for enrollment in the testing program.

The mentality of many teenagers and young adults is to think individualistically without the help of older adult figures. The right to privacy, however, should not be included in this situation due to the fact that heroin is not only illegal, but deadly. The safety and welfare of the youth of America should and must come first, while the civil right to privacy must take a backseat. The encouragement of privacy in conjunction with the risk of overdose and death will only increase the number of incidents not only in Santa Clarita, but throughout Los Angeles County, the state of California, the United States, and the rest of the world.

Looking at this situation through the viewpoint of a different age group, such as individuals that are at least 18 years of age, is just as controversial. The victims of heroin abuse that are 18 years old are seen as adults in the eyes of the law. However, even these people should be screened for drug abuse given the reason of legality. Possession, distribution and consumption of any illicit substances can result in incarceration, loss of employment and even death. In order to lower the amount of drug-related crimes and incidents, the root of the cause must first be stopped. This is similar to security guards having the right to search any passenger that may be displaying suspicious activity at an airport. Airport security checkpoints even have signs directly stating this warning of random searching. People may argue that searches at the airport are discriminatory and invasive. However, because suspicious activity can result in a tragedy similar to the events on Sept. 11, 2001, airport security has every right to search whomever they believe is acting suspicious.

Unfortunately, there were nine heroin-related deaths in 2011, and double the amount of deaths in this past year in Santa Clarita Valley. The answer to stopping the various incidents surrounding substance abuse may not be successful, but it is a way of showing heroin users and addicts where the path of drug consumption may lead. The number of deaths may even increase in the next few months to years, but the parents and school officials are taking appropriate action to discourage this activity.

The purpose of drug testing minors is not to take away the civil rights they have, but to make certain that these students realize the repercussions for ingesting any dangerous substance—including heroin. These consequences can range from expulsion from school to conviction of drug possession or distribution. Santa Clarita City Councilman Frank Ferry warned the citizens of Santa Clarita that if these minors continue to engage in acts as dangerous as the consumption of heroin, “they’re either going to be addicted or dead.” Unfortunately, neither parents nor city officials can stop these teenagers and young adults from illegal drug usage, but the program that is taking place can decrease the number of deaths and overdoses among the city of Santa Clarita. Once a part of a person’s lifestyle involves lethal activity and substances, it is no longer a matter of privacy and freedom, but an issue of life and death. The William S. Hart Union High School District has the right to order mandatory drug tests to its junior high and high school students because of their concern for not only the students’ safety, but also the safety of others. It is not an issue of privacy, rather an issue of health and safety.

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