Pubdate: Wed, 13 Dec 2000
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Amarillo Globe-News
Contact:  P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166
Fax: (806) 373-0810
Author: Jerry Epstein, President, DPFT


In a Dec. 8 editorial, you ask: "Primarily, are there specific legal 
standards required to enact a school drug testing policy? Should this 
decision be best left to school officials rather than a judge to determine?"

Opponents of such tests argue that the Fourth Amendment clearly forbids 
such searches if there is no probable cause.

Authoritarians are prone to define "probable cause" for their own 
convenience; thus the answer to the second question is certainly one for 
the courts to determine.

Nothing in the law stops individual parents from testing their own child, 
although many would argue that they would be most unwise to do so on a 
random basis.

Nothing in the law stops the school or other appropriate organs of the 
state from acting when the actions of an individual provide probable cause.

Proponents should bear in mind that tests are by no means infallible and 
that the damage done to the innocent by a false positive may easily 
outweigh any good done. They should also be aware that testing for 
marijuana, which is the easiest drug to detect, does not test impairment 
and can drive users to other, more dangerous drugs whose traces disappear 
far more quickly.

This is part of the rationale for why the Institute of Medicine, to whose 
experts taxpayers recently paid a million dollars, reported that marijuana 
itself is not a "gateway" that causes the use of other drugs but that 
making marijuana illegal does provide a gateway.

In essence, to test a group is to damage the innocent in order for the 
state to try to save a few individuals from irresponsible choices.

Where the user does actual harm to others, probable cause will be evident.

School time and money are better spent on teaching the Constitution, 
positive drug prevention such as after school programs, and professional 
counselors who can detect and help those who have taken a wrong turn.

Suspicionless searches are the hallmark of police states, not democracies.

Jerry Epstein,
President Drug Policy Forum of Texas

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