A big negative for school drug testing

Randomly selecting high school students is an invasion of privacy

Story by Nick Erickson, Managing Editor

The Duluth, Minn. school district recently proposed random drug tests for high school students in sports, extracurriculars and those who park in school parking lots for illegal substances and alcohol.

The idea of it is to discourage students from putting harmful materials in their bodies with the threat of perhaps facing disciplinary action without doing anything to detect such things are circulating through their systems.

While the idea of cutting down on such use is obviously a good thing, random drug testing is not the way to go
about it.

With random drug testing, the message being sent as administrators is simple right off the bat: you don’t trust your students.

According to an article in the Star Tribune, 64 students in Duluth public schools were caught with illegal drugs in 2012 and 2013. While that number may seem high, there are more than 9,300 students in the system. That is less than one percent of the students in the district.

I understand the whole notion of once somebody does it, it ruins it for everyone. That works in situations where everybody is directly affected, such as cell phone usage in class. Most students have cell phones, so if one person is being obnoxious and forces the teacher to take away those privileges for all to create a learning environment more conducive to learning, fair enough.

But not everybody in the public school system is doing drugs or drinking alcohol. Students shouldn’t have to make time to urinate in a cup simply for joining an extracurricular or parking in the school lots, for heaven’s sake.

Students privacy is also invaded if schools randomly drug test. At my high school, we had the police dogs come through about once a year to sniff for any kind of illegal substance. One year, a dog stopped by a car belonging to a straight-A, UW-Madison-bound student. It thought it had detected a scent of marijuana, but none was found in her car.

Reputations and rumors spread in high schools, and this seemingly ideal student and ambassador of Platteville High School was linked to drug use, even though she hadn’t done anything. I think the same type of principle applies to a similar student being drug-tested. The privacy is just gone.

There is also a logistical question of how effective it really is. According to a study in the Journal of Alcohol and Drugs, a randomized and controlled trial conducted in 2012 showed students who were eligible for random drug tests reported slightly lower use of current illegal drugs, but there were no effects on student intentions to use drugs in the future or on current use in students not subject to testing.

Also, the costs of random drug testing are actually quite high. According to the Star Tribune, most drug tests in schools range between $15 to $35 a person. Florida schools actually quit their drug testing programs because they could not afford it.

So here’s a better solution. Put the money into educating the youth as part of a health class. That way, more teaching jobs can be created, students don’t have to be scared to be individuals and learning can be incorporated to fully understand the effects drugs and alcohol can have on young bodies.