Pubdate: Mon, 24 Nov 2003
Source: Winkler Times (CN MB)
Copyright: 2003 Winkler Times
Author: Don Radford
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


The drug testing policy Garden Valley School Division developed last year 
and scrapped this year would have been both unlawful and unnecessary, says 
the provincial ombudsman.

In concluding that the testing would have been an unlawful invasion of 
student privacy, the ombudsman says the testing policy would also not 
likely have produced any positive results.

Noting that a division survey compared local students' drug use to that in 
the United States, the ombudsman's recently released report states "...the 
use of drugs by students in the Division is significantly below the 
national average in the United States. The use of drugs to be randomly 
tested has clearly declined over the past eight years without a random 
drug-testing program."

Other Factors Already Working

The report commends the community by suggesting that the decline is due to 
other already existing factors in the community and in the school system 
and notes " is difficult for us to conclude that there is a compelling 
purpose for other deterrence measures that are so intrusive on students' 

The report goes on to say that even if some additional measures were 
necessary, any success of Garden Valley's proposed policy would be suspect. 
Because the policy was to be limited to students in sports and 
extracurricular activities, the report argues, those students who wanted to 
take drugs would only have to drop out of those programs in order to avoid 

"This would further deprive these students of positive influences and 
activities. If the Division views drug testing as necessary for deterrence, 
it is hard to see how the program would deter students who were not subject 
to testing," the report observed.

Drinking Instead Of Drugs?

The report also suggested that, if implemented, the testing could 
potentially steer students from drugs that could be detected to 
non-detectable drugs like alcohol. According to the surveys conducted by 
the Division, more junior high students (27 per cent) and high school 
students (51 per cent) use alcohol than all other drugs combined. The 
report noted that drinking increased by 11 per cent between 1995 and 2002 
and observed that a drug testing program that did not test for alcohol 
could further increase alcohol use.

Presumed Guilty?

The report goes on to state: "We compared the number of students who would 
be tested with the scope of the problem. It would appear that almost all 
student athletes would likely be tested over the course of a year. Yet the 
surveys seem to indicate that only a small fraction of students consume 
drugs. Unlike reasonable-suspicion testing, we note that random testing 
presumes everyone is guilty and forces every selected student to "prove" 
his or her innocence by urinating into a container, perhaps while being 

"As previously noted, the Division already has a range of disciplinary 
measures that can be implemented without a positive drug test and without 
collecting additional personal health information. To "catch" a few 
students who are taking drugs, probably outside of school hours and 
activities, the Division is proposing to intrude in practice or in 
principle on the dignity and privacy of almost every student in sports or 
extracurricular activities by implementing a random drug-testing program," 
said the ombudsman's report.