Thursday, February 02, 2006


Do Lahaina Elementary and Mid-Pacific Institute have drug problems?

Lahaina Intermediate School´s plan to introduce drug-sniffing dogs onto their campus ("Lahaina school considers drug dogs", Honolulu Advertiser, 1/10/2006) is an admission of failure. Either they have failed to educate children to refuse when approached to buy or take drugs, or for some reason students at this school have bucked the state and national trends that show a marked decrease in drug use among school children.

Either way, parents should be very concerned.

Use of illicit drugs by students in Hawaii has been on the decline for years. The 2003 ADAD study available on the Department of Health website found that reports of ecstasy, marijuana, methamphetamines and hallucinogens dropped, and most other illicit drugs decreased slightly or remained unchanged. The DOH surveyed public schools and selected private schools. Nationally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse also found that use of illicit drugs for the grades surveyed decreased significantly. These findings mean that sound educational programs are working to decrease drug use. If Lahaina Intermediate has to resort to dogs, parents should ask administrators what went wrong in the classrooms.

Mid-Pacific Institute, a private school, may be having its own drug problems. Last year ("Mid-Pac to start drug tests", Honolulu Advertiser, March 18, 2005) administrators instituted a voluntary program based on random urine testing. The program was put in place despite vocal opposition by some parents who suggested that there are better evidence-based programs that could be adopted.

Students should be taught to resist drugs and not how to duck detection by dogs or random urine testing. Parents planning to send their children to Lahaina Intermediate or to Mid-Pac might consider whether they should instead choose a school with a proven effective drug education program.

Parents want to know that if their child should be approached by a stranger offering drugs, whether on-campus or off, the child will know to refuse and walk away. If children can resist these offers and peer pressure, then there is no need for dogs in the school or for intrusive random drug testing. These enforcement measures are no substitute for evidence-based programs that are effective at other schools. Dogs may keep the schoolroom free of drugs, but they do nothing to immunize students against pressures they may encounter on the sidewalks nearby.

Perhaps Mid-Pac administrators have been dragged into the "war on drugs" by Mid-Pac parent Peter Carlile, the city prosecutor who would love to have drug testing in public schools. If so, Mid-Pac parents might be concerned about this manipulation--because their children could benefit from proven programs instead of this cheap substitute. And they might also think of the effect on a family if there is a false positive--that is, if an erroneous report comes home indicating that their child has used drugs. Suddenly, parent will be pitted against child, with the child at a distinct disadvantage. It would be an unfortunate consequence of the enforcement mentality that Peter Carlile and others would impose on our schools.

Why don't the newspapers tell us about the effective drug education programs that are available? How can we find out how bad the problem is at these two schools? How can we keep prosecutors out of education?


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