The Lockney Independent School District in Texas is standing by its across-the-board mandatory drug testing policy, denying a father’s appeal that punishment of his 12-year-old son for refusing the test is unconstitutional.
“I don’t want to come across as a guy who is smarter than you because I’m not,” Lubbock attorney Jeff Conner, who is representing sixth-grader Brady Tannahill in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in early March, told the school board. “But I do have some grave concerns about this drug policy.
“When we drug test children who we don’t suspect to be using drugs, I think it tells our kids we don’t trust you. We are going to assume that you are lying to us. We are going to assume that you are using illegal drugs. We are going to assume you are guilty until proven innocent.”
Conner’s appeal on behalf of Brady came after representatives from the student body and faculty spoke out in support of the policy, which requires all students in the 6th through 12th grade be tested.
“We feel that our right as students to attend a drug-free and safe school has been ignored by those choosing not to support the drug policy,” junior class president Lexi Jones read from a letter signed by 20 other students. “The overall consensus of the student body is in complete agreement with the drug policy. Upon signing of the drug forms, parents as well as students have shown their approval.”
The policy requires that Brady be punished as if he tested positive on the test because his father refused to sign a consent form handed out before the tests were administered in February.
Brady faces a 21-day suspension from extracurricular activities, at least three days’ in-school suspension, and three sessions of substance-abuse counseling. He will also be required to take a monthly drug test for a year and each time he refuses, he will be considered a repeat offender, and the punishment becomes more severe.
Donald Henslee, an attorney for the school board, said Brady’s punishment will not be administered until the case has been fully litigated.
“I sincerely hoped they would change their mind about this drug testing policy,” said Graham Boyd, an American Civil Liberties Union national drug policy project attorney. “It is not going to help the students or the parents of Lockney to have this disagreement.
“Besides this group of schools in the Texas Panhandle, there is no where else in the entire nation that has an across-the-board drug testing policy. The school district is very out of step with developments in every other part of the country.”
About 400 people in attendance at a March 23 school board meeting stood up in support of the policy. Many wore red and white T-shirts that said, “We asked for it. LISD delivered it. We appreciate it.”
“It is very easy to sit back smugly and say that good parents would know if their child was using drugs, but even good kids in good homes become addicted,” art teacher Lisa Mosley said in support of the policy. “The ACLU will not show up if one of our children dies … There is not a single person tested that has been harmed, and I thank you for taking this broad step for the safety of our children.”
Bobby Hall, a business professor at Wayland Baptist University whose daughter underwent the drug testing along with 398 others, said he wishes the district didn’t need a drug policy.
“It’s a real shame that the fabric of American society has unraveled to the point where we have to have drug sniffing dogs, metal detectors, and drug tests in our schools,” he said. “I wish the drug policy could be voluntary, but a voluntary policy is the equivalent of no policy at all.
“The media has suggested that Lockney should be ashamed for having such a policy. One should be ashamed not to have such a policy. Such a failure would suggest that Lockney does not care about its youth.”
Lockney is the second school district in the area to implement a mandatory drug-testing policy. School officials in Sundown, about 75 miles to the southwest, say their policy is effective and supported in the community.
Brady’s father, Larry Tannahill, said he’s sad his disagreement with the policy will come down to a court battle.
“It hurts,” Tannahill said. “I’m not happy with it and I’m not happy with how they are trying to mandate it to everyone. If [court] is where we have to go, it is where we have to go.” n