North Country now is reporting this week about a new effort Massena is making to keep local kids off drugs: distributing drug testing kits to parents (actually, they’re giving them to the school district for distribution to parents who want them.) It’s part of an initiative by the Massena Drug Free Coalition called “Trust but Verify.”
Police chief and coalition chairman Timmy Currier told the paper the new effort could be useful in a couple ways. First, it could help kids resist social pressure to use drugs: “The purpose of this program is first, to act as a deterrent and provide kids with an excuse not to use since they could be drug tested by their parents.”
Second, he says if parents do test their kids and find they are in fact using drugs, they can deal with it privately: “The parent can consult with their family physician or another confidential professional and determine the best approach in treating their child. This will be done without punitive action and focus completely on getting their child the help they need.”
The kits can detect cocaine, meth-amphetamines, opiates, THC, oxys and benzodiazepines, and the article reports the test is 98 percent reliable.
Tests are free and made available through a partnership of the Massena Police Department, St. Lawrence County Probation Department, Rose Hill Adolescent Chemical Dependency Program and Massena Central Schools. If parents need to talk about a positive result or the testing process, they can call a local and confidential help line 800-776-7344. Pickup locations are listed in the article.
Both interim school superintendent William W. Crist and Tina Buckley, director of the Rose Hill program, agree this is a positive move. Here’s Crist, talking to NCN:
“I applaud the parents who have taken a test kit for their children to “Trust But Verify” the stark reality of our youth being tempted by street drugs and unprescribed Massena Drug Free Coalition prescription medication…Our schools represent a miniature model of our community. Both should be safe places for our young people to grow, learn and mature. Drugs and substance abuse don’t permit that safe environment to exist.”
“Free drug testing is a great opportunity for parents to practice prevention within their family. By having the tests visible and close by it allows parents to give their child an out when they are pressured to use and also is available if the parent has concerns about a child’s behaviors. This opportunity is a win-win for families.”
Massena’s making ongoing efforts to tackle its drug problem, both on the consumption side (for example, five students at the high school were recently taken to the hospital after taking prescription drugs at school) and the distribution side (recently). In the past, the village has tried to deal with the problem in several ways, including increasing surveillance in certain areas and drafting a nuisance law, as well as more traditional law enforcement measures.
Writing about the surveillance question at the time, I raised the question of whether the village’s plans might represent a potential civil liberties issue. I’m interested in that same question here. I’m intrigued by the notion that the drug test would be considered an “out” for kids who don’t want to use drugs but might feel compelled to do so by social pressure, but on the other hand, isn’t there something a little unsettling about the possibility, as a high school kid, of being randomly tested for drugs by your parents?
What do you think? Am I flying off the handle here? Is this completely reasonable? Or would you look at this and say “I don’t think that’s OK?” Read the whole article on NCN before you make up your mind…