Drug tests and dollars

October 07, 2001 11:00 pm

If you found yourself with $100,000 a year with which to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol in Baker County, what would you do?

Thats the enviable predicament of the Baker County Prevention Coalition, thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The grant is renewable annually, so the coalitions job this first year will be to make a mark and show the federal government that $100,000 is money well-spent.

No doubt the grant comes with strings attached and was won with a detailed and prescribed program of action.

But if the money were totally unrestricted, what could you do?

We put that question to our team of sideways thinkers and cooked up a scheme so ridiculous it just might work.

Step One: Bail out Baker School District 5J. Sure, $100,000 wont even begin to make a dent in the dollar doldrums the district finds itself in. But belt-tightening at the district did away with funding for a school resource officer this year, and that is a position we think should be restored.

Police Chief Jim Tomlinson intends to maintain a presence in Baker schools, but the job will be assigned to officers on duty during the weekday hours. And who is on duty changes from week to week to week as the schedule rotates.

As a result, school officials and students will be working with several different officers instead of only one.

While we believe this remains a workable situation, having one go-to person for school crime prevention and solutions would be even better. The coalition could elect to fund part of or all of a school resource position with their grant.

Not such a strange thought, really.

But consider Step Two: recent legal tests have upheld the right of school districts to perform random drug tests on students.

Lets test our student population at random and reward those who test negative with a U.S. Savings Bond of a significant denomination, maybe $50 or $100.

Those who test positive should be steered towards appropriate help and allowed, if possible, to remain in school.

The idea isnt to create a witch-hunt, but an incentive for living a drug-free lifestyle.

Kids will be clamoring to be tested.

And those who dont trip over themselves to be tested ... well, the school resource officer could begin cultivating a helping relationship with those kids to find out whats what and get them the help they need.