Student Drug Testing is Un-American
where citizens are supposed to want to keep government out of
their family decision-making, there should be no random drug testing
at public schools. Yet some 19 percent of public schools engage
in some form of student drug testing, the University of Michigan's
Journal of School Health found in 2003.
Bush proposes to spend $25 million in 2006 to fund more random
drug testing. And the internationally minded U.S. Supreme Court
thinks that drug testing in public schools is just swell.
wrong. Parents who suspect their children of using drugs are free
to test their kids. Hence, there is no need for schools to intervene
-- any more than there is a need for schools to set the punishment
for children who disobey their parents' rules. Except that it
when schools began testing athletes. there was at least the pretense
of a safety argument for the tests -- you don't want stoned kids
leaping for a high fly. But by the time the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled on said tests in 1995, the rationale for the tests had expanded.
The Big Bench supported testing of athletes to prevent the "increased
risk of sports-related injury," but also because athletes are
school officials understand that it would be a coercive violation
of privacy rights to force all public-school students to submit
to drug tests. It goes against the presumption of innocence, unreasonable
searches, the need for probable cause and other quaint notions
found in the U.S. Constitution. So those officials who want the
government to play parent have come up with a new angle -- require
students who engage in extracurricular activities to agree to
random drug testing. It's not mandatory, they argue, because students
don't have to join clubs. And believe it or not, the U.S. Supreme
Court agreed in 2002.
bet in America is: Once a bad idea is born, it only gets bigger.
Testifying before a House committee in February, Bush drug czar
John Walters argued that school "drug testing can be done effectively
and compassionately." Its purpose, he explained, "is not to punish
students who use drugs, but to prevent use in the first place,
and to make sure users get the help they need to stop placing
themselves and their friends at risk."
is: It is not clear how many students don't use drugs because
they want to be in the chess club. Probably some students refrain.
Still, University of Michigan researcher Lloyd Johnston noted
in 2003 that there is "a serious question of whether drug testing
is a wise investment," as it is not clear that it deters student
think it is good policy to treat innocent students as if they
might be guilty by making them pee in a cup if they want to be
in debate club.
there can be little doubt that students who use drugs say no to
extracurricular activities because they don't want to say no to
drugs. Testing for club membership, said Tom Angell of Students
for Sensible Drug Policy, pushes these students "away from those
positive atmospheres that study after study has shown are successful
at keeping students away from drugs."
The very do-gooders who first lament that drug use consigns students
to do poorly in school now push for policies that marginalize
students and guarantee that they will not have a full high-school
And it doesn't
matter what parents think. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor
of testing for students who sign up for extracurricular activities
in 2002, I asked the National School Board Association what it
thought of a policy that required testing of students, even if
parents negotiated. "The answer is that your child cannot participate
in extracurricular activities," an official answered. "It's not
the parent of an Oklahoma high-school student on the losing side
of the 2002 case, was outraged by the school's drug policy. She
believed that other parents supported drug testing because it
relieved them of the responsibility of their children's drug use
and ceded it to the schools. "They took away the parents' job,"
there is no outcry.
2005 Creators Syndicate
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