Drug Testing: My Kid Is Drug-Free (cont.)
The high-stakes legal battle that's emerging could affect students' rights not only in tiny Lockney, but all across the country. It has turned a father and son into national news makers. But it's also made them hometown pariahs, spurned by many in the community.
In March, about 700 people -- nearly a third of the town's population -- turned out for a school board meeting where the elder Tannahill was to speak against the district's plan. Many wore T-shirts that read, "The LISD Drug Policy -- We Appreciate It."
During the meeting the audience erupted in loud ovations for adult and student speakers supporting the policy. Tannahill spoke to dead silence and got no applause or support.
The next day, Tannahill's employer at the Floyd County Farm and Ranch Supply told him he had missed too much work and his services were no longer needed. His boss, Lindan Morris, told reporters that his firing was unrelated to the controversy, but Morris later told a Texas newspaper, The Plainview Daily Herald, that some customers had stopped coming in because they didn't want to see Tannahill.
Tannahill has also lost some friends and even received threats. Last March, his dog, a boxer, was sprayed orange with a paint gun. A note left at his home said, "Next time it won't be your dog."
Many Lockney residents seem to see the father as a lone dissenter and obstructionist who's getting in the way of a much-needed program. "It is very easy to sit back smugly and say that good parents would know if their child was using drugs," says Lisa Mosley, a former school board member and now an art teacher at Lockney High School. "But even good kids in good homes become addicted."
Warren Mathis, a Lockney resident for 58 years, says Tannahill has forgotten that other parents in the community also have rights. "People here don't think much of Tannahill now," Mathis says.
The reaction of his neighbors has been tough on Tannahill, who didn't plan on getting himself labeled the town rebel and has never been involved in politics. Rather, Tannahill sees himself simply: He's a father who had always spent a lot of time with his son, ever since the days when Brady was a toddler and Larry would bring him along while he worked the fields at his father's farm. He feels as though he knows his son almost as well as he knows himself. "A lot of folks in our family say that Brady was potty trained on a tractor," says Tannahill. "He's always been the most important thing in my life."
Now he shakes his head over the uproar and his new role challenging authority. "I was born and raised in this town, and I am surprised at the reaction I have received," says Tannahill. "There are people here that support me, but they see what I've been through now and don't want to speak out. I just cannot believe that people are willing to sit back and let the school system raise their kids and take their constitutional rights away. I won't do that and I don't care how many people around here disagree with me."