Randolph High School, Off the Jersey Pike at Crazy Town
Criminalizing drug use matters. For generations, America has attempted to control the use of substances with the wrong strategy, criminal justice policies and actions. At the core of American life, we believe that drug use and/or misuse isn’t a health issue, it’s a crime. Steeped in that belief, it becomes actions and creates a whole litney of negative consequences, damaging to community, individuals, and families. That law and order, zero tolerance mentality trickles down and such is the case with Randolph high school in Randolph, New Jersey. At a recent school event a beer can became visible to faculty and staff which set off alarm bells and forced absurd and abusive actions. More than 80 students were forced to give blood and urine samples to find the perpetrator of this “crime”.
Few things are as American as the rite of passage of youth and beer. Even The post war Americana depiction of ideal life, Happy Days, saw apple pie faced Richie Cunningham have an incident with beer. It happens. As a social worker and a dad, I in no way want youth to be drinking, I want them to play sports, have friends,learn a lot and be involved with community service. Those are all great goals but expecting perfection among any human is rank stupidity, expecting perfection among adolescents is double secret rank stupidity. Really? The kids got a hold of beer? Certainly this would have to be addressed but is the staff of Randolph high so inept the only thing they can think of is a paramilitary witch hunt?
The fourth amendment protects citizens from unwarranted search and seizure. Apparently, there is a “unless one is a drug user” caveat that for some reason never goes challenged. The idea that, at will, faculty can order a blood draw and urine analysis is far too much power for public officials to have. Does youth+ beer equal trouble? It does indeed but does this tactic of “march 80 kids to have a blood draw” do more damage than the beer itself? Certainly. Were I a parent at Randolph high I would have in no way agreed to this craziness. Additionally, the 8th amendment protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishment. Punishing someone for having a health issue is wrong. It could be argued that “willingness to break rules in order to drink” would meet criteria for a substance use disorder. Maybe the kid who brought the beer to the event is an alcoholic, punishing them with a scarlet letter for the sake of “not in our school culture” is a violation of of constitutional protections. Sounds like liberal hysteria and diatribe? It might be but such was the ruling of Earl Warren in “Robinson V. California”. The great irony here is that the blood and urine wouldn’t give the best read, the best would be a breathalyzer. Blood and urine opens a whole can of worms with rates of metabolism so it may or may not reveal who was drinking.
High Sobriety never wishes to diminish the harm of drug use and certainly doesn’t wish to advocate for youth drug use, quite the opposite. We know the statistics, the harm of the binge culture. That doesn’t mean we support the actions of the Randolph school district. What we do advocate for is honesty. Beer can be dangerous but so can setting up a culture based on fear and intimidation. What kid now feels safe to ask for help if needed? None. The message is clear to the teenage mind: “a deeper level of secrecy is needed” and that creates danger. These local incidents are a direct result of the failed drug war and criminalization of a health issue. Whatever drug use is or isn’t, we will never be convinced that it’s a crime and treating it as such benefits nobody. The faculty of Randolph high should take a good hard look at their policies and review their part in this quagmire. They won’t, they will vilify the young person who drank beer, just like Richie Cunningham and millions of others.
Author: Joe Schrank, Editor-in-Chief