Pubdate: Fri, 25 Apr 2008
Source: Montrose Daily Press (CO)
Copyright: 2008 Montrose Daily Press
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


Random drug testing is so appropriate in some sectors - those
directly related to public safety - that it  should be a given. But
the schoolhouse is not one of  those sectors, at least not when it
comes to students.

The federal government, though, doesn't see it that way. Thursday,
its "drug czarina" Bertha Madras,  visited Pagosa Springs to discuss
the benefits of  random student drug testing. The practice is seen as
a  "powerful public health tool" that deters drug use among students.

The problem is, random student testing tosses presumption of
innocence straight out the window.

No matter how it's dressed up, the practice concludes students
"might" have done something, and, quite  without probable cause,
demands they prove otherwise by  in effect "testifying" against
themselves with their  own bodily fluids.

Additionally, critics contend random testing does not reduce student
substance abuse. In 2006, Slate detailed  a 2003 University of
Michigan study (a follow-up to a  criticized 2002 study) that showed
random testing "is  not associated with change in the number of
students  who use drugs in any category."

None of this is to say random drug testing is totally indefensible.
It's just that the following defenses  don't pass muster:

* If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. This is the
single most odious line of reasoning  ever concocted because it misses
the point. People,  including students, are not required to prove
they've  done nothing wrong.

* For safety's sake. Though the safety message is appealing, at its
heart, drug testing isn't about  safety. It's about control. It is
worth noting students  are not police officers, airline pilots,
doctors or  even teachers. They shouldn't be forced to choose between
privacy and an education.

* For their own good. A drug test could reveal a substance abuse
problem, thereby alerting parents and  other responsible adults who
could help the student  overcome it before it's too late.

Of all the reasons underpinning the push for randomized student drug
tests, this is the most compelling. But it  still assumes a kid is
guilty, or in this case, "in  need of help" without any proof and
requires him or her  to demonstrate otherwise through invasive means.

If the true intent is to help students, we suggest paying better
attention to student behavior and  watching for signs of drug use.
Remember, "for cause"  testing is perfectly legitimate. Also, continue
to  educate parents and support student addicts with an eye  to
recovery. But come to grips with the fact that  students don't
surrender their right of due process  simply by walking through the
doors of a publicly funded institution.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin