Saliva Alcohol Testing vs. Teens' Rights 

Saliva Alcohol Testing vs. Teens' Rights 
Posted by FoM on February 02, 2001 at 07:11:52 PT
By Brendan January, Knight Ridder Newspapers
Source: Washington Post
Gary Finger, father of two teenage daughters, was worried last summer. There were so many stories of young lives cut short in alcohol-related accidents, and there was so much grief."My kids have had friends of theirs die," he said.A solution, he concluded, lay in a little white pouch that many hospitals use to test some emergency-room patients for alcohol.
A cotton swab is saturated with saliva and inserted into the base of what looks like a thermometer. Within two minutes, a purple bar rises up a gauge and indicates blood-alcohol content.What if parents could use the kit to keep their children clean?Finger, a Voorhees, N.J., councilman who was mayor at the time, persuaded the township to buy 1,000 of the $7 kits for parents to take free. Township officials and groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving said they knew of no similar program in the area. It goes beyond the drug screening conducted at school functions, including proms and sporting events.It is drawing mixed reviews, even in Finger's home.To Jamie Finger, 19, it smacks of a parental power trip; to Christen Finger, 18, it could be useful for choosing safe drivers at parties.The child may see the test as a breach of trust or something to be rebelled against, said Myrna B. Shure, a professor in the department of clinical and health psychology at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia and author of "Raising a Thinking Preteen.""It suggests to the child, 'I thought you trusted me, but you don't.' " she said.Officials agree that the test should not be seen as a weapon.Parents "should discuss this test with their children long before they use it," said Voorhees Police Lt. Jeff Nardello, who leads the unit that investigates drug and alcohol cases. "I wouldn't use it as a surprise. I would use it as a deterrent."Nationally, one in five traffic deaths of drivers younger than 21 involves alcohol, a rate that has slightly increased from 1995-97, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. In 1998, 42 percent of 12th graders reported riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."People have to understand that alcohol is the number-one choice of drugs in this country, and it's readily available," said Frank Winters, a member of the board of national directors of MADD and police chief in Clayton, N.J."I think it's terrific" that they have the tests available, Winters said, noting that MADD does not endorse any specific test. The tests "will result in awareness for somebody."They also are legal, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Some employers use them, especially to test workers who operate trucks or heavy equipment.The ACLU has sued on behalf of students to protest random drug testing in schools. But the right to privacy rarely exists between parent and child, except in the case of constitutional rights, such as abortion, said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey."But to essentially put parents in the role of demonstrating distrust in their children does not seem like the position the government should advocate on that issue," she said."You don't want to be someone who comes home and gets swabbed every second," Jamie Finger said."It's not preventing anything if they use it at the end of the night; you've already driven home. I think it's a power trip at times," she said.Jamie Finger was sitting in her living room with Christen Finger, and their friend Kim Soltys, 19. Gary Finger sat across the room.The teenagers at times expressed resentment; grudging understanding of their parents' concern; and acknowledgment that parents pay for the car, insurance and the roof over their heads."It depends on how close you are to your parents," Soltys said. The test wouldn't violate trust if the parents were doing it out of concern, she said.To Gary Finger, underage drinking is against the law, period. The test can prove drinking and allow parents to intervene before it becomes serious, preferably through dialogue, he said."We're trying to tell parents, 'Please take an interest in what is going on in your kid's life,' " he said. "I want parents to identify a problem, not a body."The Q.E.D. Saliva Alcohol Test is approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Gary Finger found it at CSS Inc., a company in Haddonfield, N.J."No one wants a lecture," Gary Finger said. "People will feel awkward. We're trying to encourage parents in getting involved."Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Brendan January, Knight Ridder NewspapersPublished: Friday, February 2, 2001; Page C06 Address: 1150 15th Street NorthwestWashington, DC 20071Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: A.C.L.U. Drug Testing Archives
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Comment #1 posted by Duzt on February 02, 2001 at 07:24:56 PT
Raising children
Where is our government going??? They pay major networks to make us watch what they want (trying to influence culture, is this China?) and now they are telling us how to raise our children. God forbid we treat our kids like thinking human beings. But, of course, the gov. wants us to treat our kids like they treat us. 
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