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Drug Testing in Schools

Drug Testing

Is drug testing in schools effective?

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2002 that public schools have the authority to randomly test students for illegal drugs, the No. 1 question has been, is drug testing in schools even effective? It's an issue educators, school administrators, parents, students and lawmakers chew on, yet arriving at an answer isn't easy.

"The experts agree and the evidence is clear," states the American Civil Liberties Union and Drug Policy Alliance in their joint report, Making Sense of Student Drug Testing , that "random drug testing does not effectively reduce drug use among young people."

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The report explains, first and foremost, that drug testing does not deter drug use, as there is no noticeable difference between schools that test for illicit drug use and those that don't. It's also expensive - tests cost, on average, $42 per student tested. A school of 500 would have to cough up $21,000 - a lot of money for a struggling school district to afford.

Some fear random drug testing will encourage students to explore more hazardous ways to get 'high,' such as turning towards Ecstasy and other 'designer drugs' over easily detectable, less toxic ones such as pot. Drug testing also removes trust and responsibility, harming the relationships between parents and children, and students and teachers. And since drug testing costs money, funds meant for drug education are being reallocated to testing instead.

But supporters disagree saying drug testing in schools is the answer to rising student drug use. Those in favor cite the case at a Flemington, New Jersey high school. When a 1996-97 survey of 2,500 students showed 45 percent of the student body smoking pot, 70 percent drinking alcohol, and 13 percent using coke, the school began systematically drug testing athletes. The rates dropped; administrators say they improved in 20 of 28 key categories. For example, coke use decreased from 13 percent among seniors to 4 percent.

It's enough to make the government - specifically, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) - sit up and take notice. "Already testing has been shown to be extremely effective at reducing drug use in schools and businesses all over the country," states John P. Walters, director of the ONDCP, in Drug Testing in Schools. "It's a big step in the right direction, for it gives every school in every city and every town a powerful new tool for controlling one of the worst threats facing kids today."

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