Parents cannot monitor their children the whole time, and not even the school can do this. Sometimes parents and school authorities are surprised upon learning that their children and students are involved in some dangerous activities such as binging and taking drugs. Concerned authorities have come up with programs to prevent this kind of situation. One of these is the mandatory drug-tests at school. Mandatory drug-tests may sound optimistic. But students should not face these mandatory drug-tests because these are against the notion of privacy and these do not effectively deter drug use among students.
Substance abuse is a reality that plagues students. Peer pressure added to the curiosity of students to try taking drugs or drinking alcoholic beverages. Past and recent researches on teen substance abuse revealed surprising results. Over the years the number of cases of substance use on drugs such as marijuana, nicotine, and other illicit drugs has been increasing. It was predicted in 1997 that by 2010, the number of teenagers using drugs would increase from 23.6 million in 2000 to 25 million by 2010. Reasons for the surge in drug use were pointed out as, among others, the glamorization of drug use in the media which indicates the normalization of drinking, smoking and drug use. Additionally, there was a significant decline in the perception of the risks associated with drug use by teenagers. The availability of substances such as cigarettes, drugs and alcohol has also contributed to the increase of drug use (Commission on Substance Abuse Among America’s adolescents, 1997). These are the reasons that prompted the government to mandate drug testing at schools. The former president Bush has especially set aside budget for drug testing at schools.
During the 2004 State of the Nation address, Bush indicated his desire to expand student drug testing. For the same year, the government has spent $50 billion for anti-drug programs in the federal, state and local levels. Bush, together with John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, proposed to allot $25 million for the expansion of student drug testing in schools. This proposition stemmed from Bush’s belief that drug testing has indeed reduced the number of drug use among students and teenagers in general. However, experts have reported that due to the small number of schools which participate in the random drug testing, any reduction in drug use among teenagers is not a direct result of drug testing (Martins, 2004).
To further his agenda, Bush proposed a $3.7 billion budget for drug treatment.
Mandatory Drug-Tests are against Privacy
Mandatory drug-testing has further received attention during the Vernonia School District v. Acton Supreme Court decision in 1995. During those times, school sports were seen as having prominent effects and student athletes were admired not just in the school but in the community as well. By 1980s, school authorities have observed an increase in drug use. Those who use drugs became more outspoken about their attraction to the drug culture and became increasingly rude during their classes. Additionally, school authorities noticed that student athletes were leading the drug culture (American Documentary, Inc., 2003).
As a response to the growing problem, school authorities offered special classes and presentations, and invited speakers to deter drug use. Even if the school has gone as far as bringing in a dog to detect drugs, the problems did not disappear. Then, district officials have considered issuing a drug testing program aiming to keep student athletes from using drugs and to keep them healthy and safe. The drug testing would require students who wanted to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, to sign a waiver. This was contested by a seventh grade student named James Acton, who, along with his parents, refused to sign the consent form. Without the form, the school denied Acton participation in football. Acton and his family filed suit (American Documentary, Inc., 2003). The Supreme Court decision included the students’ undergoing drug tests if they were to get involved in athletic programs. The decision also gave importance to the rights of students to privacy (Walker, 2005).
However, this is not the case with random drug testing. Under the U.S. Constitution, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, he is entitled to privacy. But with mandatory drug-testing, these two lessons are undermined. Mandatory drug-testing depicts that a student is assumed as guilty until his drug test result shows that he is clean; it does not give importance to the student’s right to privacy. Additionally, many considered the way the state implemented the drug test as both offensive to personal dignity and destructive of students’ privacy (Martins, 2004).
Furthermore, the mandatory drug testing has included non-athletes. Across the United States, debates have risen regarding this action. For instance, a teenager in Oklahoma, a member of the high school choir, refused to take the drug test. Many were asking whether drug testing was going as far as prying into the private lives of students (Trustees of Boston University, 2002).
As every American citizen is included in the constitutional right to privacy, attention has been focused on the question whether these mandatory drug tests were in fact illegal searches. Parents, and those who disagree with mandatory drug testing, still believe that even if these tests are permissible searches, these are still invasion of privacy (LaFollette, n.d.). This is also what a supreme court justice expressed regarding an Oklahoma policy in implementing drug testing. Mandatory drug-tests are invasion of privacy. In fact, these drug-tests may steer students, especially those who are at risk of substance abuse, away from extracurricular participation (Gunja, Cox, Rosenbaum, and Appel, 2004).
Mandatory Drug Tests do not Deter Drug Use
Yamaguchi, Johnston, and O’Malley conducted a research study regarding the effectiveness of mandatory drug tests. The study found out that drug test is “not a strong predictor of students’ marijuana or other drug use.” The schools are also burdened by the expensiveness of undergoing such drug tests while there were reported cases of false positive results (Walker, 2005).
There are some people who believe that drug tests are not helpful in schools whether public or private (The Associated Press, 2006). This reflected in another study which showed that drug testing was not effective in deterring the use of drugs. The largest study showed that drug testing does not have positive effects in the attitudes of students about drugs. Furthermore, the study found out, as mentioned above, that the strongest predictor of drug use is their attitude toward use of drugs and their perceptions of peer use. The results of this study were in agreement with other studies and surveys conducted regarding the effectiveness of mandatory drug testing (Gunja, Cox, Rosenbaum, and Appel, 2004).
The study has also compiled several schools and parents who oppose the mandatory drug-tests. One official in a school in Oklahoma reasoned out that the school stopped drug testing because it was not an effective deterrent of drug use and the school was spending too much for it. Another official indicated that drug testing was more of a parental responsibility. It was also noted that parents oppose the mandatory drug-tests because of so many factors such as budgets, loss of focus on education, and the possibility of creating a threatening environment for the children. There were also others who firmly believe that urine-testing, one of the drug-test types, was invasion of privacy. This would only enable students to think that the school is policing them instead of teaching them how to think critically. Some parents have also expressed their concern about the lack of health community participation due to the implementation of mandatory drug testing. The authors of the study have also taken note that school officials chose not to implement drug testing because of the burden it places on schools and students. Furthermore, officials reasoned out that the mandatory drug testing does not really lead to safer environment for students. Experts have also seen the effects that implementing a mandatory drug testing had on students. One expert argued that the more effective alternative to deter drug use is effective substance abuse prevention programs. Moreover, the drug testing that was originally physicians’ tool in diagnosing and treating substance abuse has been used for non-medical purposes (Gunja, Cox, Rosenbaum, and Appel, 2004).
Furthermore, concerned social workers, physicians and child advocates believe that drug testing is not a replacement for other drug prevention programs such as extracurricular activities. Organizations that represent these groups have come forward to oppose drug testing programs in court. Some of these organizations include the National Education Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Public Health Association, and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. They stated that drug testing could interfere with other treatment and prevention measures that are more effective than drug testing (Gunja, Cox, Rosenbaum, and Appel, 2004).
The study also noted that drug testing cast negative impacts inside the classroom as students are pitted against their teachers who conduct the testing. The relationship between teacher and student is tarnished, and trust is lost as students tend to feel embarrassed and resentful. This would undermine chances for students to solve their problems, especially drug-related ones. Furthermore, the study claimed, according to the results, that drug testing hinders the students’ willingness to participate in extracurricular activities. Drug testing is directly targeting those who want to participate in extracurricular activities. The Tulia Independent School, which faced lawsuits about privacy and confidentiality, observed that the number of students who join after-school activities decreased when the drug testing was implemented. Certain students reported that they would be too embarrassed to be drug-tested, thus many backed out (Gunja, Cox, Rosenbaum, and Appel, 2004).
Since the mandatory drug-tests was put to practice, many people, including students, parents, school officials, social workers, and experts, expressed their concerns regarding the effects that the tests have on students and the school. Students should not face mandatory drug-tests because these violate the students’ privacy rights. Furthermore, drug-tests indicate that a student is guilty until proven innocent. Additionally, students should not face mandatory drug-tests because these do not deter the use of drugs. There are other programs that are more effective than drug-tests in deterring drug use.