By HDN Staff
House Bill 81, which would require drug testing for high school athletes, has been hotly debated these last few weeks.
There is no question that drug problems are an issue for teen-agers even in our area. However, we at the Havre Daily News believe that this bill, if passed, would do more harm than good for area schools.
First is the issue of cost. The current proposal hangs a $40 price tag on each individual drug test. Many state schools have hundreds of student athletes, and with education funding already tight, there is little room for an extra $12,000 to $16,000 to be budgeted in. If schools did not fund testing, students may be required to foot the bill for their tests, which would no doubt deter a large number of student athletes from participating in sports.
House Bill 81 pertains to student athletes alone, and would affect only a portion of a school's student population. What about the students involved in speech and debate, or science club? Would schools require them to take these tests as well? They are, after all, representing the school when they attend their meets. If they are to extend the tests to these students, then why not have a required drug test before being allowed to enroll in school? Where does the testing end, and where does the students' privacy begin? Do schools have the authority to parent students when it comes to substance abuse? We do not think so.
The focus once again comes down to high school sports. This is not a professional association, and these students are not getting paid to participate in football or basketball. Sports are extra-curricular activities, and should be treated as such. The students join these activities to have fun and to be a part of a team. When drug testing comes into the picture, there is too much emphasis being put onto the sport itself, and the enjoyment is lost.
When a school is given the authority to require tests for only a certain percentage of students, (the majority of which fall into a low-risk category in the first place, as studies have shown that students who participate in school sports are less likely to do drugs), it is exceeding its authority. School sports should be open to anyone, without invasion of anyone's privacy. If a student is taking an illegal substance, it is most likely that he or she will not choose to participate in sports. If a student is taking drugs and decides to join a sports team, it is only a matter of time until the substances affect his or her performance and the problem comes to light.
We, at the Havre Daily News, agree with Superintendent Kirk Miller, as well as local Reps. John Musgrove and Merlin Wolery, and Sens. Jon Tester and Greg Jergeson in their opposition of House Bill 81.