Earlier this week, the Northern Valley Regional High School board of education voted against the implementation of random student drug testing. Parents and students fought the proposal for nearly a year with incredible dedication, through the use of an online petition, signs, a website, passionate speeches at public hearings and civil legal action.
In a 5-4 vote at a public hearing, district trustees declined to proceed with the controversial expansion. Their decision was met with enthusiastic applause by the dozens of parents, students and advocates in attendance, including DPA’s New Jersey director, Roseanne Scotti, all of whom had vehemently opposed the proposal and diligently insisted that the board examine other options.
The district suggested expanding its existing suspicion-based program last winter in an effort to mitigate student drug use. However, the efficacy of random drug testing is not supported by scientific literature and likely results in a host of unintended and harmful consequences, such as the destruction of trust and hindrance of communication between students and school administrators.
Moreover, conditioning involvement in extracurricular and athletic activities on involuntary drug testing may actually deter participation in those activities, which are a proven means of helping students stay out of trouble with drugs.
The thousands of dollars the school district will save on the vetoed proposal should instead be spent on more effective interventions, like the implementation of an educational program that promotes an honest dialogue between adults and young people — one grounded in research, compassion and health.
Elizabeth Thompson is a New Jersey policy coordinator with the Drug Policy Alliance.