Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jul 2002
Source: Indianapolis Star (IN)
Copyright: 2002 Indianapolis Newspapers Inc.
Author: MICHAEL A. MCKILLIP, Clark Brittain, Neal Smith, Jessica L. Tennant
Note: 4 PUB LTE's refer to the title article



Rosa and Reena Linke are model students who found themselves subjected to 
Northwestern High School's random drug testing policy. The sisters believed 
that being subjected to a drug test -- and its accompanying intrusions into 
their privacy -- without cause violated their rights. The Indiana Civil 
Liberties Union agreed with them.

The ICLU's suit became part of a stream of drug-testing litigation. Almost 
all of the suits have argued the same point -- that school officials should 
have some suspicion students are using drugs before forcing them to take 
drug tests. Recently, however, the U.S. and Indiana supreme courts narrowly 
decided that "suspicionless" drug testing of athletes and students involved 
in extracurricular activities is legal.

That does not necessarily mean doing such tests makes sense.

The best way to keep kids off drugs and out of trouble is to engage them in 
structured after-school activities. Experts, including the Indiana 
Prevention Resource Center and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose 
suspicionless testing, in part because it deters student involvement in the 
very activities that help keep them drug free.

Testing gives little assurance for the money.

Most schools use the least expensive, effective and accurate screening 
method available, Immunoassay Testing, which costs about $20 to $40 per 
test. This test produces false positives, meaning harmless chemicals 
(ibuprofen) can trigger a positive result. The test can also fail to detect 
drugs such as LSD.

And while the cost of an individual test is low, the cost of identifying a 
single drug user can be astronomical. In 1990, the federal government 
tested its employees. After spending $11.7 million, the government came up 
with 153 positives. The cost to detect each drug user was $77,000 per user.

The human costs are even higher.

Consider Rosa and Reena. Both are athletes and honor students.

They could accept taking a drug test if there had been any reason to 
suspect they had been using drugs. But there isn't, because they haven't. 
What they have difficulty accepting is a policy that requires them to 
endure the humiliation of urinating in the presence of a school official 
even though they have done nothing wrong.

The damage done by such policies is immense.

We require Indiana students to study the Constitution and the Bill of 
Rights before they graduate in the hope they will come to revere our system 
that protects human liberty. But then we turn around and tell those same 
young people that the most basic constitutional protections just don't 
apply to them.

And we wonder why so many people get so cynical so young.

McKillip is legislative director for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union in 

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Our culture suffers from an impoverished sense of punitive options 
regarding drug use. Some people regard any illicit drug use as heinous, yet 
support drug use in the form of tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, sedatives and 

Addiction rates, according to the Institute of Medicine, for common drugs 
are: marijuana, 9 percent; alcohol, 15 percent; cocaine, 17 percent; 
heroin, 27 percent; tobacco, 32 percent. Death rates in the U.S. related to 
drug use: tobacco, 400,000 per year; alcohol, 100,000; prescription drugs, 
36,000; illicit drugs, 16,000; marijuana, none.

We have 5 percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of its prison 
population. We have more people in jail for non-violent drug crimes than 
for all crimes in all of Europe.

A government-sponsored Rand study shows that education and prevention are 
23 times more effective than eradication, interdiction and incarceration in 
drug-use reduction. Yet 85 percent of the money used in the war on drugs is 
spent on eradication, interdiction and incarceration, including drug 
testing. In spite of this, drug use remains as high as ever.

The recent Supreme Court decision regarding random drug testing in schools 
sends exactly the wrong message to our youth. They recognize the hypocrisy 
of selective prohibition. Youth know, even if adults don't want them to, 
that their drug use is not harming others and is no direct threat to 
society. If the intent of the court is to discourage drug use, there are a 
number of more reliable, proven useful methods. If the goal is to put 
people in prison whose behavior annoys us, we could not have conceived a 
better system.

Clark Brittain


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The case for drug-testing anyone is flimsy, at best. It is particularly 
wrong to force school-age citizens to submit to tests since it teaches them 
that government has a right to pry into their personal business.

The standard urinalysis is very lacking. It will pick up only byproducts of 
marijuana in the system, not determine whether recent contact has been 
made, nor whether the person is currently high. For chemical drugs such as 
heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc, the tell-tale metabolites pass 
through the body in one to two days.

Alcohol remains the most common drug abused in the workplace. Drug tests do 
not detect alcohol in the system and therefore are a waste for the majority 
of companies.

The Emit tests cost a school system or employer approximately $35 each, 
money much better spent in the classroom than for prying into a student's 
private life.

Substance abuse is a problem, but drug testing is not the answer, 
particularly when applied to students participating in extracurricular 
activities. They are less likely to do harmful drugs than those who do not.

Neal Smith


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My opinion of drug testing in schools goes to my roots. In seventh grade, 
as a cheerleader and member of many clubs at Maxwell Middle School, I was 
drug-tested. As I walked to the back of my school and into the 
"pee-mobile," I asked myself what a 13-year-old from a small town who had 
never done drugs in her life had done to be treated like a criminal. The 
answer was not safety, but the illusion of drug safety in my middle school.

The Greenfield Community School Corp. could drug-screen every involved 
student in all three secondary schools in our community and still not find 
the dozens of students who do drugs.

Now that I am in high school, I find it even more ridiculous. I knew then, 
and I know now, that the students who get high on weekends are not those in 
student council or leaders of the prom committee. They are not the students 
who run for class officers or hold the position of captain of the 
cheerleading squad.

Therefore, a policy whose purpose is to find drug users and eliminate drugs 
from schools is targeting the wrong students.

The attitude of public schools, at least in my community, has become one of 
assuming guilt. This is the beginning of more control over everyone, 
including young people. When my generation graduates from high school, we 
will not be equipped with the knowledge of our basic rights. Do adults and 
political leaders want the leaders of tomorrow to grow up with this idea?

Drug testing youth is an invasion of the privacy of every student and of 
the family life that is so important. It is wrong.

Jessica L. Tennant

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