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August 2006
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My letter gets published

In The Pantagraph:

School drug testing just doesn’t work
Once again, a school is considering the disgusting and reprehensible practice of making children pee in a cup while their teacher listens (“Drug testing now policy in district,” July 31, page A5).
It’s only for those who want to be in music or some other competitive activity, but that doesn’t make it better. It makes it incomprehensible.
First, drug testing in schools doesn’t work.
The largest study ever conducted on the topic — funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse — found that schools that engage in drug testing have identical rates of drug use to schools that don’t test their students.
But drug testing is a huge growth industry, and companies are relentless in trying to make schools feel guilty about not purchasing their product.
Second, study after study has shown that extra-curricular activities provide positive experiences that reduce the likelihood of kids using drugs. By testing only those who try out for these positive activities, you drive away the at-risk kids who could benefit, leaving them, where? On the streets?
Logically, it would make much more sense for schools to test only the kids who are not participating. But that’s illegal. So in order to appear to be doing something useful, schools make the problem worse by sweeping at-risk kids under the rug.
Is there something good that schools can do? Absolutely. Put that drug testing money into band uniforms. Add more opportunities and incentives for kids to participate in activities.
And if parents want their kids tested? Go ahead. What’s stopping you? These tests are easily available online or in local stores. Parents groups can raise money to subsidize them if they wish.
And if listening to a child urinate is even appropriate, it should be done by his or her parents. Not government officials or English teachers.
Pete Guither
Bloomington

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