(photo: Chris Hinkle for NY Times)
What happens when schools adopt a zero tolerance policy on drug use? A good idea no doubt – after all, who wants drugs in schools? The answer is nobody wants drugs in schools, near schools, or at any level of a school system. But is zero tolerance realistic? Is it realistic to think there is ever a drug free system in America? Hardly! A school in Safford Arizona has tested the zero tolerance policy on one of their students and created quite a stir.
Savanna Redding was a 13 year old student in Safford, Az., she had no history of disciplinary issues or drug abuse. Based upon a tip from a snitch facing disciplinary action from school officials after he was caught with Ibuprofin, Savanna was subjected to the schools zero tolerance policy which mandated a strip search by the assistant principal. The case went to court and Judge Kim McLane of the ninth circuit court of appeals wrote for the majority saying, “It does not take a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13 year old child is an invasion of constitutional rights.” Well said, your honor! In addition to the constitutional issues how about the child welfare issue? What could be more humiliating or traumatizing for a self -conscious adolescent girl than a strip search at school? Bra shopping with your dad? That’s just as gross; it’s all so hideous and frankly unbelievable. As a side note, the picture of Savanna in the New York Times conjures thoughts of “I wonder if she babysits?”
When communities, schools, families, any system, draft drug policy with the mindset that it is something that can be controlled, deterred, or punished, it does not create public safety, it creates things like strip searching a 13 year old girl and other horrific by-products. In a sense, the disease wins. Nothing fuels addiction like trauma. The irony is, this measure of safety made Savanna pretty vulnerable to developing a chemical dependency herself. Zero tolerance is not the answer, awareness and oversight are a much better solution!