Empire editorial: Juneau School Board made the right move

Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Juneau School Board should be commended for taking a stand against teenage drug abuse. The board voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a random student drug testing policy that will go into effect this fall.

Public testimony from parents, students and community members made the difference in helping to sway reluctant board members to vote in favor of the policy. The grassroots group Taking Action deserves credit for rallying the community to support this cause. Drug abuse in schools has been discussed for nearly a decade, but it wasn't until Taking Action formed that something was done.

Several board members expressed regret that it took so long to address the drug problem in Juneau's high schools. But as they say, it's better late than never.

As a community, we must look to the future, a brighter, drug-free future for Juneau's youth. What's important now is moving forward with testing and implementing the policy in its entirety. The community pushed hard to get testing in place, but purging OxyContin and other drugs from local schools will require cooperation from everyone. Passing the policy was merely the first battle, but the war against drug abuse among teens is far from over.

Students who may be "caught" in drug testing need more than punishment; they need help. Addressing the drug problem is an important step, but solutions can only be found in continued counseling for the students involved. How the community will address a potential surge in the number in students in need of drug counseling should be the next item on the agenda.

Parents, teachers, coaches and advocacy groups must remain vigilant in the fight against drug abuse, and we hope they will fully support the School Board as new policies are set in place. No one should rest on their laurels simply because testing was passed.

School Board President Mark Choate summed it up best when he said success will depend on "active participation from the entire community. It will take all of us to do it."

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