Honolulu Lite


Sunday, January 26, 2003

Lingle tip-toes into
student drug testing

Gov. Linda Lingle's proposal to test public school students for drugs is a tad less odious than Senate President Robert Bunda's but only because the governor's program would be voluntary and Bunda's mandatory.

Both, however, have a trunk-load of problems and that trunk will be hauled into court by the ACLU faster than you can say "equal protection," "search and seizure," and "mittimus forthwith."

To Lingle's credit, she's simply asked Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona to come up with a committee to study the possibility of the feasibility of the advisability of implementing plan to float a balloon to test the waters of whether to hoist the drug testing idea up the flag pole to see if anyone has the inclination to contemplate the various options and alternatives to saluting or otherwise acknowledging said hypothetical drug-testing concept.

That's a long way from strapping on the jack boots and storming high school campuses with urine collection flasks. Under previous administrations it would come under the heading of "giving the lieutenant governor something to do to keep him/her out of everyone's hair." But with Aiona's background as a judge and Lingle's understanding that she has to make the most of manpower she has at hand, I suspect she really intends to let Aiona do the heavy lifting when it comes to matters along the crime and punishment line.

TO HER CREDIT, Republican Lingle knew she was walking into the lion's den when she addressed the heavily Democratic state legislature and was smart enough to not to start off what promises to be a fragile working relationship by taking the podium telling members of a brother branch of government: "Your ideas suck!"

Knowing also they would be expecting her to propose tax cuts for the rich, taking food from babies, pushing old people down stairways in their wheelchairs and shooting the homeless, Lingle surprised them by proposing to lower taxes FOR THE POOR and actually agreeing with some of the Democrats' ideas, including dopey ones like student drug testing. Except when she mentioned drug testing she slipped in the word "voluntary" which some in the audience didn't catch until they were in mid-applause and others didn't until the ride home.

Voluntary is better than mandatory but I remember what a federal judge once told a defendant who didn't file his federal taxes because he thought they were voluntary: "Yeah, you volunteer to do it OR SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS TO YOU!"

School kids shouldn't take drugs. But some do. And when I was in high school the teachers knew who they were. You didn't have to conduct random drug tests on the A+ kid in the front row to know that the punk zoned out in the back was high. At my high school, it was even more obvious since the guys sitting in the back of the classroom were actually sniffing paint.

I suppose you could ask students to sign documents saying they would agree to drug testing. Then you could send notes to the parents of all the kids who refused to sign. You would succeed in getting the hell beat out of a few kids when they got home. See, for some kids, it's not a "drug" problem, it's a "home" problem. And that kind of problem can't be solved by a drug test.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail

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