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Student Assistance Programs vs Drug Testing

An Article By Terence T. Gorski
GORSKI-CENAPS Web Publications
Published On: March 22, 2001          Updated On: August 07, 2001
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

Training & Consultation:,,  Gorski-CENAPS, 17900 Dixie Hwy, Homewood, IL 60430, 708-799-5000 

Is it a good idea to rely on random drug testing to reduce the incidence of drug abuse in our schools.  A recent court decisions may force all concerned to rethink the issue. A recent ruling by an Oklahoma Appeals Court may force us to rethink the answer.  They found that randomly drug testing all kids in extra-curricular activities violates the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.  This isnít necessarily bad.  Well designed Student Assistance Programs (SAP's) are far more effective than drug testing in preventing and helping kids who have problems with alcohol and drugs.

On March 22, 2001 the Associated Press (AP) reported that a federal appeals court outlawed an Oklahoma school district's random drug testing program for students involved in extracurricular activities.  The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled by a 2-to-1 vote that the Tecumseh School Board did not demonstrate a need to use drug-testing as an admission requirement for all after-school activities.  It ruled that the random drug testing policy violates the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches, according to the majority opinion.  

This decision could require schools to prove drug use among a group of students before implementing random drug testing.  The appeals panel's decision reverses a federal district court ruling in March 2000 that upheld the policy, noting the devastating effect of illegal drugs.  The appeals panel rejected that argument, saying the policy was not designed with students' health in mind. If it was, then all students, not a select group, would be tested.

This court decision result from the actions of two individual students, Lindsay Earls and Daniel James, who challenged the policy of Tecumseh High School to require random drug testing for all students participating in extra-curricular activities.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld random testing for student athletes in 1995, this recent appeals court decision is part of a national trend to rethink the role of drug testing.  In many schools there is a tendency to rely on drug testing and the punishment of kids who come up positive by suspension, expulsion, or arrest.  This over reliance on drug testing and enforcement can easily lead to deemphasizing student assistance programs for kids who get into trouble with alcohol or drugs.  Hereís why this is a problem.

Drug testing is an intrusive procedure that could very well violate the constitutional rights of students protected by the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.  It also has limited effectiveness.

Punitive approaches to drug abuse prevention, such as random drug testing without cause, drives kids with drug problems under ground.  They donít stop drinking and drugging, they simply develop better skills at avoiding and beating the drug tests.  It also polarizes the student body against the teachers by a creating an enforcement environment rather than a learning environment. 

Students are less likely to seek help from or report drug using peers to teachers if they know they will be suspended, expelled, or arrested.  Students are more likely to seek help for themselves and their fellow students if they know that drug using students would be treated compassionately with the goal of helping through treatment instead of punishing through suspension, expulsion, arrest for drug law violations.

Student Assistance Programs Ė A Better Alternative

Student Assistance Programs (SAPís) have been proven to be effective.  SAPís offer help, not punishment.  They reach out through peer assistance programs to kids who are showing signs alcohol, drug, or behavioral problems but have not yet become involved in the schools corrective disciplinary processes.  They also make evaluation and treatment a mandatory step in all corrective actions taken against problem students.  The goal is to identify problem students early and to refer them to the student counseling or medical services where they are evaluated for drug abuse and offered treatment instead of punishment.

 It's important to get tough in addressing the  alcohol and drug problems.  We also need to be smart by using proven substance abuse treatment methods that work.  Getting tough by forcing our kids into random drug testing, searching their lockers for no reasoning, and continually threatening them with punishment if they get into trouble usually backfires in the long run.  Getting smart by providing student assistance programs that can help our kids learn to live sober and responsible lives works.  

Let's all make a commitment to get tough while being smart -  at least when it comes to our kids. 

Terry Gorski and other member of the GORSKI-CENAPS Team are Available To Train & Consult On Areas Related To Recovery & Relapse Prevention
Gorski - CENAPS, 17900 Dixie Hwy, Homewood, IL 60430, 708-799-5000,,

About the Author

Terence T. Gorski is internationally recognized for his contributions to Relapse Prevention Therapy. The scope of his work, however, extends far beyond this. A skilled cognitive behavioral therapist with extensive training in experiential therapies, Gorski has broad-based experience and expertise in the chemical dependency, behavioral health, and criminal justice fields.

To make his ideas and methods more available, Gorski opened The CENAPS Corporation, a private training and consultation firm of founded in 1982.  CENAPS is committed to providing the most advanced training and consultation in the chemical dependency and behavioral health fields.

Gorski has also developed skills training workshops and a series of low-cost book, workbooks, pamphlets, audio and videotapes. He also works with a team of trainers and consultants who can assist individuals and programs to utilize his ideas and methods.
Terry Gorski is available for personal and program consultation, lecturing, and clinical skills training workshops. He also routinely schedules workshops, executive briefings, and personal growth experiences for clinicians, program managers, and policymakers.

Mr. Gorski holds a B.A. degree in psychology and sociology from Northeastern Illinois University and an M.A. degree from Webster's College in St. Louis, Missouri.  He is a Senior Certified Addiction Counselor In Illinois.  He is a prolific author who has published numerous books, pamphlets and articles.  Mr. Gorski routinely makes himself available for interviews, public presentations, and consultant.  He has presented lectures and conducted workshops in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  

For books, audio, and video tapes written and recommended by Terry Gorski contact: Herald House - Independence Press, P.O. Box 390 Independence, MO 64055.  Telephone: 816-521-3015 0r 1-800-767-8181.  His publication website is

Terry Gorski and Other Members of the GORSKI-CENAPS Team Are Available To Train & Consult On Areas Related To Addiction, Recovery, & Relapse Prevention
Gorski - CENAPS, 17900 Dixie Hwy, Homewood, IL 60430, 708-799-5000,,

This article is copyrighted by Terence To Gorski.  Permission is given to reproduce this article if the following conditions are met:  (1) The authorship of the article is properly referenced and the internet address is given;  (2) All references to the following three websites are retained when the article is reproduced -,,,; (3) If the article is published on a website a reciprocal link to the four websites listed under point two is provided on the website publishing the article.

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