End mandatory student drug testing in public schools

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by Rob Taylor

In an effort to follow a national trend, at the beginning of the current school year, The Bandon School Board instituted a mandatory drug-testing policy for students who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities sponsored by the Oregon School Activities Association. Many in the community thought the school district overreached in taking this action because there is little evidence that student drug testing reduces drug use. At the same time, the policy is intrusive, expensive, and undermines parental control.

The results of a national survey recently published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence revealed that students who participated in sports while undergoing mandatory drug testing stopped using only during the testing period. Students who were already using pretest went back to taking drugs when the testing period stopped at the end of the season. In short, mandatory drug testing had little to no long-term effect on drug use among student athletes. In some cases, students simply substituted drinking hard alcohol for smoking pot, because alcohol does not stay in the blood stream as long, reducing the odds of a positive test. Interestingly, most school districts test for marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and opiates when research shows that today the drugs students most commonly abuse are inhalants, prescription drugs, and steroids.

In 2008, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously found that a local school district’s policy of suspicionless urine testing for students engaged in extracurricular athletic activities was unconstitutional under the state’s privacy laws, noting that, “forcing student athletes to submit their urine to officials is a degrading practice that treats student athletes as suspects.” Since then, there have been numerous other cases that have been brought across the country giving voice to parents’ concerns that student drug testing is both ineffective and unethical.

Parents often are under pressure to find things for their children to do after school and extracurricular programs can alleviate stressful situations at home. Most of the students who participate in afterschool programs have far less free time to ingest illicit drugs, since most of these activities require upwards of 21 hours a week in supervised participation. There are circumstances where the threat of a drug test may scare away the very students who need the focus offered in a structured program. These activities may be the only thing providing a nurturing atmosphere that prevents children from turning to drugs in the future, so why risk losing their trust from the beginning?

The school administrators will promise that the results of the drug tests will be confidential. However, there are too many people involved in administering the tests to guarantee privacy and nothing is secret in small towns. What happens if the student who fails a drug test is not a serious drug abuser, but a teenager who wanted to play sports, did a dumb thing, and is now humiliated and stigmatized by a process outside of parental control? What if the test result is a false positive?

School boards do not thoroughly explain to the parents the legal ramifications of a student failing a drug test. Under the law, government agencies doing a background check can request a student’s academic record, including the results of any drug tests given to the student. A failed test may result in a student’s disqualification for certain military commissions, security clearances and other sensitive positions, resulting in real limitations on career choices. Is this policy worth undermining parents’ authority and their ability to protect their child’s future?

Schools used to teach The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” They are supposed to give children an education, not a criminal record. Students are people, not suspects, so school boards and administrators must take into consideration the long-lasting fallout from “feel-good” policies that, in the end, do more harm than good. They also have an obligation to consider alternatives to drug testing that emphasize drug education, counseling and extracurricular programs. Our common goal should be to build trust between schools and students and help prepare students to become responsible citizens, not treat them as possible criminals.

Unfortunately, without strong, vigilant parents, there are few mechanisms in place to stop the injustices and harm caused by failed school policies. Drug abuse is a serious concern. We need to work cooperatively with school authorities and be smarter about how to fight it. Informed parents backed by a concerned local community should unite and take immediate action to end mandatory drug testing of students. Let us find a better way.

Rob Taylor is the founder of CoosCountyWatchdog.com a network of individual government watchdogs.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Drug Abuse, Education | 29 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jack Lord God

    Good article that touches on a number of very real points – drug testing deterring student participation, failing a test going on the students record.

    It seems like schools are searching for yes/no policies that alleviate them from the harder job of evaluating the student as an individual. Put in a drug test and you are relieved of having to have a counseling session with that student to ask if they are doing drugs. Put in a zero tolerance for weapons in schools and you relieve the teacher of having to consider if there is a difference between a Swiss Army knife and a machete. The down side is you wind up expelling students for biting their pop tart into a gun shape.

    Metal detectors, drug tests and zero tolerance inanity seem to do more to turn our schools into police camps than places to learn. They have appeal because they seem like easy solutions. The sooner we stop looking for easy solutions and realize we face a serious structural problem in how we educate our children, the better.

  • Ballistic45

    And to think, only working stiffs and students are subject to random drug test but not Welfare recipients. Nah, that’s somehow uncalled for or some say Un-Constitutional… Show me the distinction between working stiff and student rights compared to that of welfare recipients rights in the Constitution, Please!

    • LulzPdx

      LOL.. well.. if it makes you feel better, I don’t think any of those groups should be subjected to random drug testing unless being impaired could result in harm to others. Sooooo…. did you consider that option?

      • Ballistic45

        Oh, OH, I get it.. Welfare druggies are no threat to society so therefore Constitutionally protected from drug testing to get someone else’s earnings, Ah, thank you for clearing that up for me….

        • LulzPdx

          LOL. No, I see what you’re saying. If you get public assistance you give up your Constitutional rights. Thank YOU for clearing that up for me.

          • Ballistic45

            Yep, and I would expand that to not being able to vote while on Welfare just like Incarcerated Felons.. Neither are contributing to Society, both have agendas to expand their demands on society… But let us go back in this conversation where I asked the question ” Show me the distinction between working stiff and student rights compared to that of welfare recipients rights in the Constitution, Please!” To make it more simple for you, Show me in the Constitution where its OK to drug test the Working Class BUT NOT Welfare recipients! Even more simple, Where does the Constitution say its OK to drug test the providers but not the takers?

          • educate yourself

            First of all read a newspaper. The courts are having the last word on this. And quit complaining about drug testing ‘the working’ class. That can’t be done either unless you agree to it in a pre-employment agreement.

          • Ballistic45

            No, the people have the last word…. And you feel that my refusal of employment to get around drug testing is OK, what happened to the right to the pursuit happiness? So I can’t have a job unless I give up rights.. Got it….

        • Myke

          @Ballistic45, you mistake a solution where no problem exists. Drug testing welfare recipients isn’t the problem, its a symptom of a problem. States that have implemented these laws have found that the cost of testing provided no effective benefits of return in catching drug using welfare recipients, as the percentage of drug users was minimal.
          The problem is a system that promotes a lifestyle of continued consumption of welfare without conditions for behavior modifications or self improvement for the prospect of improving one’s future.

          • Ballistic45

            Point taken, we do need to attach strings of responsibility of self improvement to welfare benefits.. Truth be is that when the third generation of a welfare family fails to improve their independence, what politician is going to cut or reduce their benefits? My argument is that if a working stiff has to submit to random drug test to remain employed and that he cannot spend his earnings on drugs without the liability of being caught in such drug test and losing his employment.. Why should those who receive his money in the form of Welfare not also have to play by the same rules, being if they spend it on drugs, they too jeopardize their income…

        • please read

          So what percent of the tested actually showed drug usage? Your ignorance knows no bounds. To assume all US citizens on welfare are drug users is retarded. Things like food stamps predominately go to children, the disabled and the elderly. And yes, that little thing called the constitution protects everyone, even right wing uneducated bigoted nut jobs like yourself. Don’t buy into the propaganda. Do some actual research and see if some of the things you ‘think’ are true actually are

  • zanzara2041

    I’m thinking random drug testing for all school employees, admin and board members…and legislators, aides, lawyers, judges, cops and government employees would be an educational experience that could clear the air in a number of ways.

  • Myke

    A more appropriate term for these policies would be ‘A Lack of or Avoidance of Judgment and Responsibility Policies’. They allow for brainless administration so as to avoid political fallout of bad decisions, and the implementation of fad oriented programs sold under the guise of ‘caring’. The phrase, “follow the money” is not just a method for examining for the presence of criminal activity, but an appropriate tool for rooting out wasteful and fraudulent schemes that are nothing more than ‘cash cows’. In the case of Mandatory Drug Testing, the cash cow is enhanced by the compulsory line of compliant ‘consumers’ that fuel an industry thats based on and thrives in the formation and environment of distrust. Not something that my children deserve or will participate in, especially with the options for private sector activities. Trust is NOT a fad.

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