My 30-year professional history has focused on destructive thinking and behavior patterns in sexuality and drugs and alcohol. I wish to comment on the proposed Whitefish High School mandatory drug and alcohol testing policy for all youths in any sanctioned activities.
Though exaggerated in some recent media articles, I agree with the committee that there is a serious drug and alcohol problem.
Be careful, however, when adopting policy in areas where we have legitimate fear. When afraid, we are at most risk to implement well intended, emotionally appealing policies that have unintended negative consequences due to the inherent “blind spots” that exist on the part of the brain that emotionally reasons and reacts – usually with control and fear.
We need to focus on the commonality of all loving our kids. I’ve had several people say that they were afraid to speak out because they were concerned that they or their children could suffer social consequences that would not otherwise have occurred.
The us/they mentality, a characteristic of the threatened brain, needs to be kept in check in order to adopt policy that will be the best for the widest cross-section of our kids. We do not need the emotionally reasoning, judgmental part that produces the kind of polarization we see in Whitefish around the land-use issues.
Policy should be implemented based on whether it is scientifically demonstrated to be effective; engages the highest number of our youth; and rejects them only as a last resort. The proposed one echoes the “three strikes you’re out” Federal Justice policy on many crimes that has brought us the distinction of having the world’s highest incarceration rate.
The only good scientific studies on random drug testing show them to be ineffective. That’s a major part of why the president of the Association for Addiction Professionals, and other professional organizations are against it.
Evidence-based clinical trials have shown that successful efforts to modify individual risk factors for drugs, alcohol and tobacco incorporate inclusion – not exclusion and rejection, as the socially isolated are more likely to engage in risky behaviors.
Our threatened brain fervishly believes in control and punishment to intervene on “the enemy.” When triggered, it is resistant to feedback. It can’t be wrong, so the “war” gets repackaged while justifying, or not seeing the “collateral and unintentional damage.”
The policy is punitive socially – three strikes you’re out – appropriate for some, but not all.
Let’s band together and create a drug and alcohol and expulsion policy that helps to bring around the most kids possible.
Undermining the foundation of trust that many of the genuinely caring and dedicated teachers and administrators work their butts off to create is a bad idea – even when it comes with the genuine love and good intentions that I have grown to trust and admire amongst many of those professionals.
Let’s work together to minimize the “collateral damage” to our kids from this latest “war.”
The Whitefish School Board is accepting input on proposed random drug and alcohol testing policy at Whitefish Middle School auditorium at 7 p.m. on April 7.
Andy Hudak is a licensed clinical professional counselor from Whitefish who designed Montana’s first intensive outpatient alcohol program in 1977. He has been active in public policy issues of sexuality and drug and alcohol abuse since that time.
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