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Should schools do random drug testing?

Since the Supreme Court ruled random testing programs constitutional in 2002, more than a thousand schools have implemented them

Since 2002, when the Supreme Court ruled that random school drug testing is constitutional, more schools have adopted the practice. Meanwhile, over the past five years, teen drug use has declined 23 percent, with 840,000 fewer students using illegal drugs today than in 2001.

But despite these encouraging numbers, some teenagers still fall prey to peer pressure to get involved with drugs—all too often with damaging or tragic results.

More than 1,000 schools around the country have implemented random student drug-testing programs, and we're hoping more schools will follow.

Random testing in schools provides students with a clear disincentive to do drugs, since students never know when they might be tested. For students who don't really want to do drugs but feel pressured to try them, random testing gives them an iron-clad excuse for saying no.

Using drugs can have a variety of negative consequences for young people: Whether it's failing to live up to their academic or social potential, getting in trouble with the law, or jeopardizing the health and safety of themselves and others, young people who use drugs, even casually, put themselves at risk. Random student drug testing can prevent this by confidentially identifying those who may be on the path to trouble, so they can get help before it's too late.

By giving students an incentive to stay away from drugs, random drug testing helps them lead healthy, successful lives. For that reason, it's one of many tools we believe schools should use to fight drug use among teens.

John P. Walters, Director
White House Office Of National Drug Control Policy

Drug testing in schools requires students to provide urine samples for analysis, even if they have done nothing to provoke suspicion.

Randomly screening the urine of America's youth is an excessively invasive policy that fails to achieve its purpose. Rather than waste limited funding on this humiliating and counterproductive policy, schools should give students information about the dangers of drug use as well as counseling to those in need.

The presumption of innocence and the right to be free from unreasonable searches are fundamental guarantees of the Constitution. Random student drug testing, which forces individuals to prove their innocence absent any suspicion of guilt, undermines these core constitutional principles.

Furthermore, drug testing does not work. Examining data collected from 76,000 students nationwide between 1998 and 2001, Lloyd D. Johnston, who directs one of the largest surveys of student drug use, found that "there really isn't an impact from drug testing as practiced."

A clear impact of random drug testing is the erosion of trust between educators and students, which pushes at-risk students further away from the help they need. In addition, since marijuana can be detected up to a month after use, students may turn to more-harmful drugs that are less detectable, or to binge drinking, which is responsible for the vast majority of substance-related injuries and deaths among young people.

If our goal is to both protect students today and to provide them the tools to protect themselves in the future, then random drug testing is a recipe for failure.

Graham Boyd, Director
Drug Law Reform Project, American Civil Liberties Union