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December 1, 2004 - The Kentucky Post (KY)

Harm Outweighs Good Of [Drug] Testing Students

Forcing Drug Tests On Students Is Ineffective, Invasive, And Can Make Existing School Drug Problems Worse

By Tom Angell, communications director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

The Walton-Verona school board recently approved a random, suspicionless drug testing program for all student athletes. Advocates of such programs claim that they give young people an excuse to say "no" to drugs.

But randomly testing those who participate in after-school sports simply gives students who have used or are thinking about using drugs an excuse to say "no" to trying out for teams.

School officials should welcome these at-risk students into the positive atmospheres provided by team sports, especially during the crucial hours between the end of the school day and the time their parents come home from work.

Instead, drug testing programs turn students toward the streets, where they'll be more likely to experiment with drugs.

Yanking at-risk students out of their after-school activities and deterring others from joining could have the unintended consequence of worsening an existing drug problem in the student body.

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice published a report in 1998 underscoring the importance of extracurricular involvement in crime and drug-use reduction among adolescents.

Why would school boards want to further alienate the young people who need their help the most?

Forcing students into bathroom stalls while school officials listen for the sounds of urination greatly damages the relationships of trust that are so crucial in our schools. Students should feel that they can approach adults if they have problems with drugs or are experiencing other hardships of being teenagers.

Instead, the "gotcha" attitude that is fostered by drug testing isolates students and deters them from seeking the help and advice they might need.

Drug testing isn't just contrary to common sense; it's not supported by science. In 2003, researchers at the University of Michigan published the largest national study on the subject, finding that "school drug testing was not associated with either the prevalence or frequency of student marijuana use, or of other illicit drug use."

Numerous other surveys support this finding, and studies to the contrary are conspicuously absent.

How much will an ineffective drug testing regimen cost local taxpayers?

Schools that adopt such programs spend an average of $42 per student tested. In Dublin, Ohio, the cost of detecting only 11 students who tested positive cost $35,000, or $3,200 per positive test.

In a time when many school districts are cutting programs and teacher salaries just to keep the lights on, throwing money down the drain on drug testing is especially foolish.

Because of the ineffectiveness of drug testing, 95 percent of schools nationwide do not randomly drug test their student athletes.

Northern Kentucky school boards should think twice before adopting drug testing programs, which surely are not the quick fix for drug problems some say they are.

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