It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read this blog on a regular basis that I am opposed to drug testing of students. Over the past few years, one southwest Missouri school district after another has hopped on the bandwagon and has opted to test students who participate in extracurricular activities (and for full disclosure, my employer, the Joplin R-8 School District, is one of those schools that tests students).
I have never questioned the sincerity of those who have voted to employ these measures. Drugs are a major problem in today's society and in today's schools. Something has to be done and the courts have not allowed random testing of all students, but they allow testing of students who participate in activities that are not a part of normal schoolwork, such as sports, band, academic teams, etc.
My opposition to the testing has always been based around the students' right to privacy and their Fourth Amendment right not to be searched without a warrant and without probable cause.
I have also questioned the cost of drug testing. School districts which cannot afford to spend this kind of money are investing tens of thousands of dollars which could be put to better use in the classroom. (Hmm, I wonder if drug testing falls under Governor Blunt's 65 percent plan.)
Now thanks to Al's Morning Meeting, a daily e-mail message designed to provide journalists with ideas for stories, I have a third reason to oppose this invasion of student rights.
A University of Michigan study published in 2003 examined 76,000 students in eighth, 10th, and 12th grades in hundreds of schools between 1998 and 2001 showed virtually no difference in drug-use rates between schools which employed drug testing and those which did not.
The study was criticized by the Bush administration, which noted that random testing was not included in its findings, so it was republished later in 2003, taking random testing into account.
The study says, "The two forms of drug testing that are generally assumed to be most promising for reducing student drug use -- random testing applied to all students, and testing of athletes -- did not produce encouraging results."
The march to drug testing fails to take several factors into account:
-Many students will simply avoid participation in extracurricular activities, the same type of activities that might provide a lifeline for some of them to quit using drugs.
-Some young people have a firm belief that they will never be caught and they continue breaking laws and doing drugs even though testing is in place.
-If drug testing is ever expanded to include the entire student body, schools are taking the risk of further increasing dropout rates that are already far too high. If that happens, crime will increase, and taxpayers will shoulder the burden.
Maybe it's time for school officials to consider taking the money used for drug testing and investing it in after-school programs that can increase involvement and cut down on drug use. School should be a positive experience for students, not a place with an atmosphere of fear and mistrust.