Monday, September 03, 2007
Enforcement cabal sets sights on public schools to stage their next war on drugs
The "drug war" in Hawaii, as elsewhere, depends on keeping the populace in a state of fear. In order to do their work, drug warriors have to convince us (and the Legislature) that Hawaii is in the grips of a crime wave, or a drug epidemic, or that our children are about to be turned into addicts who stash illicit drugs or alcohol in their school lockers or in their backpacks.
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle's letter to the editor in the August 28 Honolulu Advertiser pushes drug sniffing dogs as the answer to an imagined schoolhouse addiction problem. Perhaps it's time to revisit the issue of drug testing, student surveillance, and the prosecutor's own role in creating a self-serving paranoia that furthers his enforcement goals.
Carlisle and Hawaii's "enforcement cabal" (loosely US Attorney Ed Kubo, Peter Carlisle, Lt. Governor Duke Aiona and others in the Lingle administration) must have been disappointed in the August 16 Advertiser article contrasting a national survey with Hawaii results. A 2003 study of 30,000 Hawaii students conducted by our own Department of Health and cited in the sidebar Hawai'i Students 'Just Say No' found drug use at historically low levels in Hawaii's schools. The story said it was "the lowest ever," and "monthly prevalence rates for illicit drug use were lower in Hawai'i than nationwide." But that doesn't make for a successful drug war, so Carlisle conveniently ignored it in his letter and tried to smear Hawaii's schools with the less encouraging national statistics.
Usage of every kind of drug continues on a steady downward trend in our schools, so there's little reason to subject students to intrusive dog searches. Education and prevention seem to work effectively here. Citizens spoke out at the cabal's 2004 drug summit and denied them support for excessive enforcement. We clearly prefer education, prevention and treatment. And why not, they have worked for Hawaii, in both the schools and in the community.
Two years ago Carlisle was willing to risk sacrificing the reputation of Mid-Pacific Institute, the school his son attended, by pushing school administrators, over the protests of a parent group, to institute random "voluntary" drug testing of students. With the just-released 2003 Department of Health study of public (and some private) schools showing low and declining rates of drug use, Carlisle put the hammer down on Mid-Pac to drug test its students.
The risk? Why should this particular private school need to institute random drug testing? Were there incidents we weren't told about? If so, might parents decide to send their children to another school which didn't admit to needing drug testing?
The school may well have been pressured by Carlisle for self-serving reasons. It was easy to speculate that the real target would later be the public schools. Mid-Pac was only a dry run, a willing test case so to speak. Or else, of course, they really did have a drug problem (in which case, as the parents pointed out, there were evidence-based programs available to them that produce real benefit).
Not only is random testing of questionable value, but it doesn't equip students to make their own decisions about the dangers of drug abuse in the future. It's also hard to show that the program is working. Is it successful if a handful of students are caught? Is it successful if none are caught? In other words, the program was put in place without the possibility of measuring its success rate. That's one way to recognize when an action is not driven by science but by politics.
The dogs are unnecessary except to promote a state of constant fear. Whenever the dog and its handler appear on the scene, everyone is supposed to remember that we're engaged in a war against drugs in our schools.
In fact, there's no need to spy on student lockers. There's no need to look for drugs in every knapsack.
Board of Education members who would defy provisions of our federal and state constitutions guaranteeing rights of privacy even to students will gain little because the schools are not, in fact, hotbeds of drug dealing and addiction. Studies show exactly the opposite. Instead, the BOE will be playing into the hands of the enforcement cabal.
Prosecutors and the dog-sniffing service have a clear interest in hyping a threat, but there's no evidence that there is one.
Larry, introducing a "Stalinist" atmosphere of fear in the school system is not good. What a crock of horesh*t! Before implementing the program in the schools, I would like to modestly propose that Carlisle and Kubo apply the program to the folks on the fifth floor of the State Capitol (complete with body cavity searches, breath tests, and drug-sniffing dogs). With some of the bullsh*t that's been happening lately, I kind of wonder what those fifth floor folks have been smoking!
Thanks for your comment.
I'm sure they thought about it. I had a little fun with the subject back in April when the Legislature, or at least one committee chair, was thinking of just that:
OK, legislators, time to learn to pee in a cup
Your questions answered on drug testing elected officials in Hawaii