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
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.
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.
Programs Ė A Better Alternative
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.
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
Let's all make a
commitment to get tough while being smart - at least when it comes to our