Press Release  | 06/04/2008

White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Washington, D.C. Summit on June 4

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Largest Study, Leading Health Groups Call Random, Suspicionless Drug Testing Harmful and Ineffective

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is conducting a series of regional summits designed to convince local educators to start drug testing students -- randomly and without cause. This policy is unsupported by the available science and opposed by leading experts in adolescent health, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, the Association of Addiction Professionals and the National Association of Social Workers. The Bush Administration is hosting a summit on Wednesday, June 4 at the Office of National Drug Control Policy at 750 17th Street, N.W. in Washington, D.C. from 1 p.m.--4:30 p.m.

"The irony of drug testing programs is that they alienate students from the very activities that are most effective in keeping young people away from trouble with drugs," said Jennifer Kern, youth policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance. "They create barriers to the very programs that increase students' connection to caring adults and provide structure and supervision after school."

Studies have found that suspicionless drug testing is ineffective in deterring student drug use. The first large-scale national study on student drug testing, which was published by researchers at the University of Michigan in 2003, found no difference in rates of student drug use between schools that have drug testing programs and those that do not. A two-year randomized experimental trial published last November in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded random drug testing targeting student athletes did not reliably reduce past month drug use and, in fact, produced attitudinal changes among students that indicate new risk factors for future substance use.

"Drug testing breaks down relationships of trust," said Naomi Long, director, District of Columbia Metropolitan Area with the Drug Policy Alliance. "All credible research on substance abuse prevention points to eliminating, rather than creating, sources of alienation and conflict between young people, their parents and schools."

Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are Saying No published by the Drug Policy Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union can be found online at www.safety1st.org. An excerpt from the booklet is included below:

Comprehensive, rigorous and respected research shows there are many reasons why random student drug testing is not good policy:

  • Drug testing is not effective in deterring drug use among young people;
  • Drug testing is expensive, taking away scarce dollars from other, more effective programs that keep young people out of trouble with drugs;
  • Drug testing can be legally risky, exposing schools to potentially costly litigation;
  • Drug testing may drive students away from extracurricular activities, which are a proven means of helping students stay out of trouble with drugs;
  • Drug testing can undermine trust between students and teachers, and between parents and children;
  • Drug testing can result in false positives, leading to the punishment of innocent students;
  • Drug testing does not effectively identify students who have serious problems with drugs; and
  • Drug testing may lead to unintended consequences, such as students using drugs (like alcohol) that are more dangerous but less detectable by a drug test.

Jennifer Kern at (415) 373-7694 or Naomi Long at (202) 669-6071

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