New Jersey Students Stand Up to Random Drug Testing

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October 21, 2013 - By Brian Rabadeau

Earlier this month, students in New Jersey began speaking up against their school district’s drug policy. A fiery debate has occurred throughout the Northern Valley Regional school district of New Jersey over implementing a random drug testing (RDT) policy in the district’s high schools.

Parents and adolescents have criticized the policy as invasive to privacy and pre-emptively treating students as criminals. Administrators and supporters responded that the random testings would help curb drug and alcohol use among teens. The debate has gotten particularly tense as a board member invoked that parents who advocate against the drug testing policy are “parents who smoke pot with their kids.”

While the issue of random drug testing has recently been spurred back into the public forum, the debate is nothing new. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that RDT policies are constitutional, although critics find the policies at odds with the Fourth Amendment.

What was refreshing to witness was the creative avenues that students used to protest the RDT policy. The Northern Valley Regional school district, which is made up of seven towns in New Jersey’s Bergen County, saw students come out in droves using demonstrations such as dressing up in a prison uniform to express that the testings stigmatize students. These students do not fit the druggie stereotype that their opponents might paint them as. Rather, they fought this policy as an issue of civil rights and set powerful example.

If you are attending high school or college, you too can get involved with drug policy reform. Drug policy reform groups such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy have chapters throughout the country and provide an opportunity to build a chapter at your own school. Parents can also learn about reality based drug education through the popular handbook Safety First. Reformers in the North Jersey area interested in the protesting Northern Valley’s RDT policy can sign their petition.

Brian Rabadeau is an intern for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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