Pros & Cons of Student Drug Testing at Schools

There are many pros and cons in the school drug testing debate that is a hot topic of discussion in schools and amongst parents, teachers and students these days.

Some say that the main purpose of random school drug testing is not to catch kids using drugs, but to prevent them from ever using drugs, illegal or not. Once teenagers are using drugs it is much harder for them to break their addiction. Maybe it’s the issue of peer pressure, which is the greatest cause of kids trying drugs. If by testing the athletes or other school leaders, we can get them to say no to drugs, it will be easier for other kids to say no.

On the other hand, one of the fundamental features of our legal system is that we are presumed innocent of any wrongdoing unless and until the government proves otherwise. Random school drug testing of student athletes turns this presumption on its head, telling students that we assume they are using drugs until they prove to the contrary with a urine sample.

Student Drug Testing

“If school officials have reason to believe that a particular student is using drugs, they already have the power to require that student to submit to a drug test,” said ACLU-NJ Staff Attorney David Rocah.

The constitutional prohibition against “unreasonable” searches also embodies the principle that merely belonging to a certain group is not a sufficient reason for a search, even if many members of that group are suspected of illegal activity. For example, even if it were true that most women with red sports cars were drug users, the police would not be free to stop all women who drive red sports cars and search them for illegal drugs.

Students who participate in athletics, music programs, and after-school activities could increasingly be subject to random drug testing under a program promoted by the Bush administration.

There are some parents, teachers and school officials who are calling it a heavy-handed, ineffective way to discourage drug use that undermine trust and invades students’ privacy.

In many workplaces and in the military, there’s been drug abuse testing going on, but courts have ruled that public schools cannot impose random tests on an entire student body.

However, the Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that schools could randomly test student athletes who are not suspected of drug use. In 2002 it was ruled that all students who participate in voluntary activities, like cheerleading, band, or debate, could be subjected to random tests as well. Since then, the Bush administration has spent $8 million to help schools pay for drug testing programs. The White House hopes to spend $15 million on drug-testing grants in the next fiscal year.

There are about 600 school districts in about 15,000 nationwide that use drug tests, according to officials from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. White House officials liken drug testing to programs that screen for tuberculosis or other diseases, and said students who test positive don’t face criminal charges.

Others believe that if parents would just take the time to talk with their teenagers about drug abuse and if they suspect their teen is abusing drugs, the parents need to take actions beginning in the home. There are many teen drug testing home kits on the market these days. If parents upheld their roles as parents, then teachers, coaches and the government wouldn’t need to step in and push the issue of school drug testing.

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