Are You Kidding Me?

The Saucon Valley School Board is considering random drug testing for students.

In what may be the dumbest idea to be discussed at a Saucon Valley School Board meeting in some time, director Edward Inghrim reported Feb. 28, , that he had “been performing informal surveys of high school students about drug use in . He said students know others who are selling and using drugs at .” He therefore proposed random drug testing for students involved in extracurricular activities. Never shy, board member Lanita Lum leaped on Inghrim’s bandwagon, saying “something needs to be done about this” and suggesting that random testing be applied to all students.

If such proposals were initiated they would clearly be unconstitutional and bankrupt the district in a New York minute. Lawsuits on behalf of illegally searched students would overwhelm the district with legal expenses, not to mention huge judgments and settlements. It would be much as if Hellertown Borough Council authorized the Hellertown police to conduct random warrantless searches on residents’ homes because they suspected the widespread use of pot in the borough.

Since 1969 it has been clearly established, in the Supreme Court decision of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, that students don’t lose their civil rights merely by being in school. The exact quote from the majority’s opinion is: “First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and student. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. This has been the unmistakable holding of this Court for almost 50 years.”

Lest anyone think that these constitutional rights are limited to freedom of speech, the same opinion quotes from an earlier judicial opinion: "The Fourteenth Amendment, as now applied to the States, protects the citizen against the State itself and all of its creatures--Boards of Education not excepted. These have, of course, important, delicate, and highly discretionary functions, but none that they may not perform within the limits of the Bill of Rights. That they are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedom of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes."

Note the point the Court makes about not strangling the free mind at its source, a notion entirely disregarded by directors Inghrim and Lum. If the school board is responsible for anything, it is responsible for teaching our students the meaning of the Constitution and not violating their constitutional rights.

In Inghrim’s case, this is much like the pot calling the kettle black. Inghrim was sworn in as a member of the Saucon Valley School Board in December 2005, less than two weeks before he was arrested in Lower Saucon Township for drunk driving, leaving the scene of an accident and driving at an unsafe speed. His blood alcohol content was reported to have been .13 percent at the time of his arrest. The legal limit is .08 percent. Mr. Inghrim’s remark at the school board meeting after his arrest, which was to the effect that 'we all do that,' was both offensive and wrong.

Inghrim never disputed the charge. Instead, he delayed his trial before the magistrate until he could work out a plea deal, apparently on the ground that he was a first offender. The punishment he agreed to was that he would deliver a number of lectures to Saucon Valley students warning them of the dangers of driving under the influence. Needless to say, his lecture went over like a lead balloon.

It is hard to believe that Inghrim has the moral chutzpah to suggest the random drug testing of students. He was probably better positioned to suggest Breathalyzer tests instead, as at least he is familiar with that problem. Moreover, he attempts to solve a “problem” that doesn’t exist. Nobody seriously cares about athletes using pot or, for that matter, drinking booze. The whole effort for random testing for professional athletes has to do with performance-enhancing drugs. Mr. Inghrim is simply confused about what problem needs to be solved, and if so, how to solve it.

Lanita Lum’s concordance is equally asinine. Ms. Lum, who was once the proprietor of a local departed Hellertown newspaper, has never lost the habit of speaking first and thinking afterward. She is someone who ought to know about constitutional rights but obviously doesn’t. When I wrote a column for her newspaper, the then-Borough Manager tried to suppress her paper on the spurious ground that an ordinance prohibited the “printing” of a paper on Main Street within 50 yards of which, mysteriously, was not  threatened. Neither Lum’s paper nor The Valley Voice was printed on Main Street. Instead of fighting for her First Amendment rights, which would have given her and her small paper national publicity and a certain win, Lum folded up shop and moved the paper to her land in Lower Saucon and Bucks County.

Is it too much to ask that the school board meticulously stays within constitutional bounds and considers the effect of its pronouncements on the minds of our students?

Editor's Note: Arthur Joel Katz is a former member of the Saucon Valley School Board. He was no longer a board member at the time of the events referenced in this column.

Jaded1 March 06, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Go ahead...random drug test my 2 high schoolers. I'll be rich I tell 'ya! Mr, Katz, may I be the first to put you on retainer?
Jaded1 March 06, 2012 at 10:02 PM
This is so ludicrous on so many levels, it boggles my mind. Legalities aside.. the implementation of such a program, actually obtaining the samples by trained professionals, sending them to certified labs for results, making sure all proper protocol was followed....did Mr. Ingrahm actually think this through before spurting out such an absurd statement at an actual school board meeting? Then what do you do with the results? Expel all positive drug testers, send them to rehab at the school districts expense, what? PLEASE for the sake of all that's sane in this school district, put this issue to rest before it finds a life of its own.
VoicesCarry March 07, 2012 at 02:17 PM
From what I remember about being in high school.. Generally, The kids involved in extracurricular activities were not the ones who were also involved with drugs. And who would be paying for these random drug tests? Tax payers? Pahlease! We pay enough.. The parents of the randomly selected kids in the school system can pay for it... Im sure that would go over just like that lead balloon..
Sam Hain March 07, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Your typical high school "burn out" typically isn't on the football team, or debate team, or working the school newspaper. Drug testing the kids involved in extra-curricular activities is like strip searching grandmas boarding planes while fighting "the war on terror": it makes no sense. Is there drug usage among students in SV? Of course there is, just like in any other school district in America. However, if you don't want your kids involved in that activity, maybe be involved in their lives, rather than putting a TV and an Xbox in their room and hoping for the best.
Moe Szyslak March 19, 2012 at 03:26 AM
suffice to say, the ones on drugs that we need to be worried about are not the kids on the reduced lunch program. they drive the car mommy and daddy bought them to school, smoking a roach all the way down Polk Vally ....


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