Random drug tests for teenagers?

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Today is National D.A.R.E. Day, a day in which we not only have to worry about our government pumping money into an ineffective drug education program for our kids, but also fret over other, more insidious forms of “drug prevention.” This coming Tuesday marks the kickoff of a taxpayer-funded summit to promote random student drug testing. Attendees of the summit will probably not hear about a 2003 federally-funded study of some 76,000 students across the country that found that there is no difference in drug use between those students who were subjected to the testing, and those who weren’t.

Beyond effectiveness, the ACLU and Drug Policy alliance point out (PDF) that issues of privacy make the practice legally risky, undermine trust between teachers and students, and deter students from extracurricular activities (you know—those things that keep kids off drugs). One wonders what the logic of the measure is. Say a student tests positive for a drug. The punishment will most likely be some form of suspension. So, that kid, whose parents probably work, will be out of school, and with a whole lot of time to kill… Brilliant!

Many school officials and parents strongly oppose the measure. As one parent noted(PDF), “The concerns of parents [in opposing a student drug testing proposal] have ranged from the budgetary issues to losing our focus on education to creating a threatening environment.” So why would any school agree to such a counter-intuitive measure? Turns out that the federal government plans to offer a generous grant program to schools that agree to implement the drug-testing program.

Take away money from low-performing schools and throw money into those that agree to implement an ineffective top-down strategy? If this administration is going to run public education like a company, they could at least try for effective measures.

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