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Published January 09 2009

Forum Editorial: Drug test by parents a good tool

An effort that involves parents in drug testing their own children is an intriguing approach to a seemingly intractable problem. Project 7th Grade came to Fargo on Wednesday at the invitation of Sullivan Middle School. The national program educates parents about drug symptoms and paraphernalia before handing out free kits parents can use to test their children for 12 drugs. It’s voluntary, so proceeding with testing is strictly a family matter.

Seventh-graders are a long way from adulthood, even if they don’t believe it. At 12 or 13 years of age, the time of raging hormones is beginning. Bodies and brains are growing and changing. Kids at that age do stupid things and make poor choices in part because they have not yet developed the cognitive skills to make good judgments.

Experimentation with drugs (including the most ubiquitous drug of all, alcohol) often starts during those years.

If parents are supposed to have primary responsibility for their children, any tool to help kids avoid the pitfalls of the early teen years should be welcome. Ideally, parents know their children better than teachers or counselors or anyone else, so it stands to reason that engaged parents would know best whether Junior or Missy should be tested for drug use. Project 7th Grade recognizes and respects the parental role, and that factor is the program’s basic appeal.

Misguided children’s advocates complain that any invasion of the child’s privacy – even by a parent – is a violation of the child’s rights. But a child’s welfare and health are more important than a misapplication of privacy rights. In a family setting, voluntary drug testing would certainly be discussed among parents and children before testing was attempted. No two families are alike, so each family would come to its own accommodation.

The salient point is this: Drug abuse is a fact. It happens in families of every socio-economic status. Teenagers know the stuff is out there and easy to get. Innocent experimentation can become crippling addiction. Young lives, indeed families, can be destroyed by drug use that leads to addiction. Even a one-time flirtation with illegal drugs can mean serious entanglement with the law.

So why not give families another tool to protect their children? Project 7th Grade is not some invasive government mandate. It’s voluntary. It puts the onus on parents, where it belongs, to know what their kids are doing. Parents who take advantage of such a family-friendly program are doing their children a huge favor.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board