I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
ACLU / Benjamin Stevenson Viewpoint Gets it Dead Wrong
"Ben, allow me to put this bluntly, Your analysis (no pun intended) is flawed”
The overriding theme of the badly flawed viewpoint by ACLU lawyer Benjamin Stevenson is that the Escambia County School Board is overstepping its authority with our proposed random drug testing policy.
He carefully but tacitly attempts to draw comparisons between our School Board’s proposed drug testing policy-- “Government Run” --and the very unpopular “Government Run” healthcare legislation. Smart idea, but it does not work. You see, guys like Ben love Obamacare, so his attempted comparison immediately loses credibility. So Ben is going with Government Intrusion as the cornerstone of his argument against our authority. “Too Much Government Intrusion!!” Here’s the deal, though—we’re already “intruding”, Ben. I mean, do you want to take all government regulation and control out of schools and out of a school board’s purview? Okay, lets look at that hypothetically...
It is a big intrusion, imagine the audacity, of us wanting to transport your kids for you on our busses, Ben. The Horror! How dare we as a government agency transport your kids for you, parents. We know you can drive, but we’ll do it for you. And we know you can cook, but we’ll go ahead and provide breakfast and lunch for your kids as well-- and for some of you-- we’ll give you the meals free. Yes, we know it is a big government intrusion, but we want your kids to be healthy. And we’ll provide extra services at no charge to some students if they are disabled, and we’ll do free pre-school for some, and free after school for others, and vaccinations and immunizations for kids. We’ll even do summer school and home visits and extracurricular activities, and sports, and bands, and field trips. We’ll have government involvement in many aspects of your kids’ lives that go well beyond education. This is the state of public education in America—total big government involvement. And Ben knows this.
But, when we as a School Board recognize a serious, growing safety issue (drugs on campus) Lawyers like Ben think it is simply wrong for a board to take some steps to stem the problem. Ben says he doesn’t like government intrusion, but imagine if one of our big government teachers or counselors failed to flag a child abuse victim, and heaven forbid, that student happened to be killed. Ben or a lawyer like him would immediately step up to condemn us and state “you should have protected this child” But is that not a parent’s role, to protect their children, Ben? Ben attempts to vilify us for “Trying to Be the Parent” to kids. Ben, here is a newsflash for you—Some parents are doing a lousy job of taking care of their kids, and we get the responsibility for educating the kids whose parents have checked out. And God help us if we don’t do a good job, because then Everything is our fault, right Ben? And guys like Ben are the first to point fingers when things don’t go perfectly in “Government Schools”. But I digress..
You see, Lawyers like Ben want it both ways. They want to say the government should not be involved at all, but if suddenly we stripped out all of the extra big government added services from some kids at some schools—lawyers like Ben would step up and demand what “his kids are entitled to”. What about food stamps, Ben? What about WIC, what about welfare checks—it’s a pretty big government intrusion into some peoples’ lives, right. What if the Government did not get involved in those things, though?
The problem that Ben and others like him fail to comprehend is that the horse is already out of the barn, and government is already intimately entwined in just about every aspect of our economy, our lives, and our schools. What one’s opinion is on this fact does not figure into a debate about drug testing, though; that is a separate subject for a separate debate.
The important fact as it relates to this debate is that Federal, State, and local entities are running the show in American public schools, period. Like it or not, it is simply the field on which we play. In some instances the involvement is beneficial—I mean, Teachers at “Government Schools” have better pay, benefits, and union protections than their private school peers. Lawyers like Ben smile when they hear this part--they like that. And poor kids get access to technology at “Government Schools” that they would potentially not have access to without government intrusion like Title II grants. Lawyers like Ben strongly approve of some “Government School” intrusions, such as providing stuff that historically only rich kids at private schools received. That is interesting. But, with some benefits come some compromises and givebacks. It is not a one-way street.
We as a school board want what is best for kids but we are under budget constraints which force us to “take the money” from big government. Under this scenario, we must walk a tightrope and carefully balance the rights of students and parents with our responsibility to follow numerous federal, state, and local laws all the while trying to keep our campuses safe and effective. Imagine that task Ben. Mix in the unspoken “Political Correctness” doctrine to which we must all obey, combined with parental apathy and disengagement, and shazaam—you’ve got today’s public school policy environment!
Ben, we will not force anyone to take a drug test, period. Any student who opts out will still receive all of the benefits of a free and accessible public education. (Complete with all of the big government benefits and accoutrements) However, if a student wants to participate in activities that are outside of our normal school curriculum (privileges), then we are going to ask that they submit to a random screening. It will be their choice, and most importantly (Ben knows this) It is legal. And the drug test component is not the be-all, end all. This is one part of a five point plan to prevent drug abuse-Ben left that part out of his piece. Also, the $350 figure for a re-test is not accurate—it will be $25.00. Saying $350 is the cost looks a lot like a scare tactic, Ben.
A final thing which I find to be peculiar is that suddenly the Escambia County School Board is the villain for having the audacity to even contemplate a random drug screening policy, according to Ben and his buddies at the ACLU. But the ACLU apparently has no issue with Santa Rosa County Randomly drug testing their student athletes, because Santa Rosa County has been doing this for a number of years. Based upon the ACLU’s recent, intimate familiarity with Santa Rosa County Schools—one would imagine the ACLU knew about their testing policy, right, Ben? I guess it is okay with Ben for the big government schools in Santa Rosa County to test their athletes, but in Escambia County the same policy is somehow wrong. Ben, allow me to put this bluntly, “Your analysis (no pun intended) is flawed”