The discussions of drug testing in schools are going to heat up even more as time goes on. With Bush promising millions in tax dollars, and the Drug Czar pulling out all the stops (and the lies) to promote this, you’re going to be hearing a lot more. And it’s going to take a major effort to prevent a nation-wide policy of teaching humiliated children that they are always under suspicion, that they have no rights of privacy, and that they must prove themselves innocent in this country.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran opposing view OpEds today on the topic “Should Students be Randomly Tested for Drugs?” and they were quite instructive.
“bullet” First you have the Drug Czar’s pet doctor Andrea Barthwell, with “YES: it Reverses the Spread of Addiction.” The title of her OpEd was pretty bizarre on its own — Barthwell’s trying to tie in drug testing with such things as school tuberculosis tests:
Addiction is a pediatric-onset disease that needs a public health response. In much the same way that school tuberculosis tests identify children who are sick and can spread a dangerous disease, student drug testing helps identify kids who have a problem with drugs and prevents the spread of the disease of addiction. Each child prevented from using drugs means there is one fewer child able to pass the disease of addiction to his or her peers
Of course, she fails to discuss the fact that drug testing has nothing to do with addiction, and that it can actually intensify addiction problems in school children, by diverting them to harder drugs less likely to show up in drug tests, convincing students not to participate in extracurricular activities, etc.
She “demonstrated” the effectiveness of drug testing by relating anecdotal evidence in one school, and using the military as an example.
And she includes with a completely unsupported statement: “Drug testing saves lives.” But then again, remember that the Drug Czar’s office isn’t required to actually tell the truth.
“bullet” On the other side of the debate, we have Martha Rosenbaum, director of the Safety First project of the Drug Policy Alliance in San Francisco with “NO: It’s costly, humiliating and not a deterrent.”
Random drug testing alienates students. Students must be observed (by a teacher or other adult) as they urinate to be sure the sample is their own. It is a humiliating violation of privacy. Testing can also have the unanticipated effect of keeping students from participating in after-school, extracurricular programs — activities that would fill their time during the peak teenage drug-using hours of 3-6 p.m.
A student in Tulia, Texas, summed it up: “I know lots of kids who don’t want to get into sports . . . because they don’t want to get drug tested. That’s one of the reasons I’m not into any [activity]. I’m on medication, so I would always test positive, and then they would have to ask me about my medication, and I would be embarrassed.”
School administrators in Dublin, Ohio, for example, calculated that their $35,000 per year drug-testing program was not cost-efficient. Of 1,473 students tested at $24 each, 11 tested positive, for a total cost of $3,200 per “positive” student. They canceled the program and, with the savings, were able to hire a full-time counselor and provide prevention programs that reached all 3,581 students.
Some will argue that students need drug testing to help them say “no.” But in 2003, the “State of Our Nation’s Youth” survey found that, contrary to popular belief, most teens are not pressured to use drugs. The same survey found, much to the surprise of many parents, that 75 percent of teenagers actually enjoy spending time with their parents. Trusting, open relationships with parents and other adults have been proven to decrease teen drug use.
Unfortunately, drug testing actually has the effect of undermining parental influence, forcing adults to say to teenagers, in essence, “I don’t trust you.”
I believe Marsha’s the clear winner here.
“bullet” In other school drug testing news, TalkLeft has the details on the Arkansas parents who have filed suit in federal court to stop random drug testing of their kids.
[Parent Mr.] Plopper, a journalism professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said the administrators and school personnel “who support and maintain suspicionless drug testing are like schoolyard bullies who torment students just because they can. “In this case, however, these people are worse than such bullies because they are educated and should know better than to turn the civil liberties of equal protection and privacy into empty promises.”
“bullet” Don’t forget that you can have your own T-Shirt with “Have you peed in a cup for your government today?” on it.