The Bush administration is pushing high schools across the country to implement random, suspicion-less student drug testing. The logic is that we need to rid our schools of drugs and give students more ways to "Just Say No." The government wants school administrators to drug test students to make sure they are abstaining. The schools pluck students out of class and give them cups to pee in (while supervised). If they test positive, they can be suspended from school and prohibited from playing sports or participating in after-school programs. There are many well-intentioned administrators and parents who support random drug testing because they don't want their teenagers to be drinking or doing other drugs. They believe these tests give students a new reason to say "no" to peer pressure.
Let's now substitute the word "sex" for "drugs." Many schools and parents also push abstinence from sex. They teach abstinence-only sex "education." We want our students to "Just say No;" we want virginity pledges. So how about we give virginity tests to all students?! While I am not sure how exactly that would work for boys, one can envision randomly sending our students to the nurse's office or to bathrooms and making them prove they are still virgins. Administering such a test would show students we take pre-material sex seriously. To encourage virginity, we could prohibit students who fail this new virginity test from participating in after-school programs and sports. This would make them think twice about having sex. With our virginity tests, students could better stand up to peer pressure and tell their boyfriend or girlfriend that they can't have sex because of random virginity testing, right?
While I would expect most parents and administrators to be opposed to virginity tests (if such a thing existed), what is the difference between virginity and drug tests? Why would random testing, public humiliation, barring participation in extra curricular activities, and abstinence-only education work for either of these important issues.
A recent study of abstinence-only sex education commissioned by Congress reveals that students receiving abstinence-only sex education are just as likely to be sexually active as those who do not. The same conclusion was reached by the largest federal study on the impact of random student drug testing: no difference in drug use between students who are and aren't drug tested.
Both the abstinence-only campaign and the push for random student drug testing are based on an ideology rather than a public health approach. Random student drug testing breaks down relationships of trust and makes open communication more difficult.
The most important thing is for our teens to be safe. Because as much as we may hope that teens don't have sex or do drugs, we know the reality is that many will experiment. We need them to know that we don't want them to have sex but, if they do, we want them to be safe and use protection. We need them to know that while we don't want them to use alcohol or other drugs, if they do, they need to make sure that they don't drink and drive.
These issues need to be personal family issues that are worked on through communication and love, not virginity or drug tests at school.
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