We ask politicians about their stance on legalizing marijuana, but why don’t we ask about random drug testing?
Since the 1980s, drugs have been at the forefront of political issues and schools around the nation have taken to randomly drug testing its students. Despite the good intention to discourage substance abuse in teens and young adults, random drug testing is invasive and ineffective.
The 1980s were characterized by conservative politics, Ronald Reagan and the start of the War on Drugs. When President Ronald Reagan took office, he pushed for funding against substance abuse and signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. Incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses increased approximately 350,000 from 1980 to 1997. The War on Drugs encouraged schools to begin implementing random drug tests as a way to deter America’s youth from substance abuse.
In the 1995 case Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, the United States Supreme Court ruled that random drug testing on student athletes was constitutional. A couple of years later in 2002, Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls expanded that authority to allow “suspicionless drug testing of students participating in competitive extracurricular activities.” Today, schools can implement their own policies for drug testing its students at random even if there isn’t a known drug problem.
It’s pointless for schools to drug test student athletes and those involved with extracurriculars since participation in athletic programs and clubs help kids stay away from drug use, according to the National Education Association.
Besides, randomly drug testing these students ends up just being ineffective and a waste of money. Many states spend millions of dollars on student drug tests. Texas, for example, budgeted 10 million dollars over eight years for an estimated 11 positive tests. A school district in Georgia has spent $20,000 dollars just to drug test their students, mostly athletes, which could have been spent on better infrastructure or programming for students. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics opposes random drug testing policies because there hasn’t been solid evidence indicating it’s effective. Random drug testing clearly is not the answer if we’re just seeing continued failure.
Besides being unsuccessful and costly, the American Civil Liberties Union also argues that randomly drug testing students is invasive. Requiring students to provide urine samples even without proof of substance abuse is an invasion of privacy, and the burden of proof falls on the student to demonstrate innocence. Drug tests aren’t an efficient way to actually catch those illicitly using substances, especially since many tests don’t capture the use of alcohol.
The University of Georgia is known for its hard drug policy. However, the last two cases of substance abuse were in 2015, and punishment did not stop defensive lineman Chauncey Rivers from getting arrested a second time for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. While consequences may not always be enough to prevent drug use, the university thankfully doesn’t implement counterproductive drug test to catch drug-using students.
If America wants to protect its youth from drug abuse, it’s going about it the wrong way. Random drug testing is expensive and useless, and the money thrown into drug testing budgets can be used for schools to build strong extracurricular programs and hire skilled advisors and teachers. Kids are easily influenced, and they make mistakes, but violating their rights and punishing them through drug tests is not going to fix the drug problem.