Students across the nation wrestle each day with the problem of illegal drug use among their peers. But what can be done to stop it? Hundreds of students from throughout Utah debated the idea of mandatory drug testing in schools at the Utah League of Cities and Towns Local Officials Day. They participated in mock committee hearings at the state capitol and learned, first hand, about the legislative process.
St. George Youth Council Member Kelsey Holt acted as the committee chair during the mock hearing. She explains the provisions of the initial bill. "There was a proposal that it should be mandatory for a student that is participating in any extracurricular activity and within the first few weeks of them participating in the extracurricular activity they would need to be tested and that the school will cover the charges."
Under the proposed bill, all public schools must implement the program even without suspicion of drug use by the student. Students participating in the hearing expressed their individual concerns about the bill and, ultimately, so did the committee.
Andy Schlachter, Draper Youth City Council Member, explains, "It didn't make sense to mandatorily test everybody who is in the extracurricular but only test some of the rest of those who are in the student body. It seemed like there was no reason to differentiate between the two."
Tayden Hansen, a youth council member from St. George, expressed her own reservation with the bill. "I feel, personally, it violates the students' rights. I suppose that if there was suspicion, that should be taken up with the student and their parent with the principal but other than that, I dont believe it should be placed on the student."
After many concerns were expressed in the hearing, a substitute bill was introduced. The sub-bill proposed that parents should cover the costs of the tests. That idea also raised concern among the students.
Taylorsville youth council member Jared Delon, also a committee member, did not believe placing the testing costs on parents was a good idea "because it ostracized the students of lower socioeconomic status." He says, "If the bill makes the students and the families pay for it, it will make it so the students that don't have the monies to pay for the test not participate in the activities." Yet, Britney Gray, of the Woods Cross Youth Council, saw merits in the substitution. "I liked the modification that we made because that way you can test all students that you may have a suspicion about, not specifically just the people in sports or the clubs."
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After all the public comment, and a healthy discussion, it was time to vote. Both the original bill and the substitute bill failed. "It would be better to maintain the status quo," according to committee member Vivek Vankayalapati, a youth council member from Draper.
The entire experience helped students hear new viewpoints on an issue that affects them directly. Participating in the mock committee hearing also helped them understand the value of the legislative process. Kelsey Holt explains: "It taught me how it happens and how it works and how to make change in your community. It's how your issues are heard."
Read more from the Utah League of Cities and Towns on DeseretNews.com or visit their website at ulct.org.