Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pee in this cup...

USA Today had two articles today both about drug testing and both by Donna Leinwand. The first features a New Jersey Principal extolling the effectiveness of testing students, while offering pretty poor examples.

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“Steffner says, she's a cheerleader for random drug testing of students. She tells other principals about the testing program she helped oversee for the past two years at Hackettstown High School, a 700-student campus in northern New Jersey.

During the program's first year, 10% of Hackettstown's students were tested randomly from a pool of students who took part in after-school activities or who drove to school. One student tested positive, she says. Last year, 25% of the students were screened. No one tested positive.” (From one positive to none, the war of drugs can be won)

“The results show testing deters teen drug use, Steffner says: "It works in the workplace and it works in the military. Why wouldn't it work in a school?"”

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Principal Steffner, how are your textbooks? Your teacher’s salaries? Your funding for after-school activities which have been shown to actually prevent drug use in the first place? Where did you gain this magical ability to rationalize causation without any evidence that it was this wholly intrusive policy that lead to a massive reduction in students use of drugs?

Principal Steffner, didn’t Time Magazine run an article not five days ago about how businesses are turning away from drug testing employees, largely because the tests don’t help? We went down this road in 1986 when President Reagan called on business to fight the war on drugs. Let not go down that same costly, ineffective road again.



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“Little research has been done on testing's impact on student drug use because it's difficult and expensive to study, says Lloyd Johnston of the Monitoring the Future study at the University of Michigan, which surveys 50,000 students a year. And yet, concern about student drug use — including recent increases in the use of prescription drugs and steroids — has led hundreds of systems to embrace testing.”

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Two things here. Dr. Johnston was also quoted in the ACLU booklet, Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators Are Saying No, “[The Study] suggest that there really isn’t an impact from drug testing as practiced… I don’t think it brings about any constructive changes in their attitudes about drugs or their belief in the dangers associated with using them.”

If a study funded by the federal government says that the testing doesn’t work, why does the Bush administration want to throw away $15 million on a plan that doesn’t actually protect children from drug abuse?

The second part, and most important point is this. The same study that said that drug testing doesn’t work also pointed out something that is a continual problem. ALCOHOL! In the 2005 Monitoring the Future Study, 47% of 12th graders had used alcohol in the last 30 days, compared to less than 20% for marijuana. Alcohol is out of the blood stream in hours, cocaine and amphetamines in a few days, but marijuana can take up to month. What do you think kids are going to switch to when you start testing?

The second article, entitled “More Schools Test for Drugs” weakly asserts that there is a growing number of schools stepping up to save the children.

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“In the 2005-06 school year, 373 public secondary schools got federal money for testing, up from 79 schools two years ago, U.S. Department of Education records show. The government has not tracked the rise of locally funded programs as closely, but the White House estimates that an additional 225 schools have them.

President Bush has asked Congress to increase grant money for testing by 45% next year, to $15 million.

The number of public secondary schools with testing programs remains a tiny percentage of the 28,000 such schools nationwide. Many districts have been reluctant to impose drug testing, fearing they could face challenges in state courts. Several states' constitutions include privacy rights that go beyond what federal courts have granted, says Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project in Santa Cruz, Calif.

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If you have two poorly planned ideas that intrude upon privacy, and you get two more poorly planned ideas that intrude upon privacy, you have a 100% increase in your poor ideas. Point is, just because more schools are doing it, doesn’t hold a candle to the fact that most everyone else is not! They realize that drug testing doesn’t work, undermines the trust between students and faculty, and is only a feel good response to a serious problem of teen drug abuse.

2 comments:

SusanK said...

So did the student that tested positive quit using, graduate or drop out? Or do drug warriors consider any one of those outcomes a "success" of testing?

Anonymous said...

People could commit suicide by the thousands daily, and the drug warriors' only concern would be that they died drug-free.