Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384
San Francisco — The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in the March 2007 issue of their journal, Pediatrics, reaffirmed and expanded their opposition to random student drug testing. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has ignored and dismissed the criticisms of AAP and other leading experts in adolescent health as they roll out their continuing series of regional summits. These summits are aimed at convincing local educators to implement across-the-board random, suspicionless student drug testing. A contingency from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) travels to almost every summit to provide educators with the vital information missing from these one-sided presentations. The third summit of 2007 will be held on March 27 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Despite four years of ONDCP-sponsored tours around the country promoting student drug testing, the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes there is little peer-reviewed evidence indicating the policy is at all effective. The AAP statement notes the only peer-reviewed study supporting testing also found that, “athletes who were drug tested experienced an increase in known risk factors for drug use, including an increase in normative views of use, belief in lower risk of use, and poorer attitudes toward school.” In contrast, the largest national study conducted to date, “found no association between school-based drug testing and student’s reported drug use.”
“Educators who are making important decisions about student safety need to know that random drug testing can undermine the protective factors that help keep young people out of trouble with drugs,” said Jennifer Kern, research associate at the Drug Policy Alliance and co-author of Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators Are Saying No. “These costly surveillance programs break down relationships of trust between students and adults and contribute to a hostile school environment.”
The AAP statement warns that testing yields very limited information about student drug use. The standard five-panel test has a short window of detection for most drugs other than marijuana and reveals nothing about alcohol, tobacco, MDMA (Ecstasy) or inhalants. Each drug added to the standard test increases the cost of testing and few schools can afford the gold standards of certified laboratories. The organization says testing may inadvertently encourage more students to abuse alcohol, or motivate some drug-using students to switch to harder drugs not detected by the school’s tests.
AAP’s cautionary comments rest on a long history of criticizing involuntary testing of adolescents, including their 1996 policy statement against testing, which it reaffirmed in 2006. AAP also joined a friend-of-the-court brief in the 2002 Supreme Court case that challenged student drug testing, arguing the policy is counter-productive, and stressing the importance of extracurricular activities in preventing students from using drugs. Fellow signatories to the brief include the National Education Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Association of Social Workers and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, among others.
DPA and the ACLU published the educational booklet, Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators Are Saying No (2006), that covers the legal implications associated with student drug testing, analyzes the costs of implementing such policies, and provides resources for educators who are interested in addressing drug abuse among young people.
Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are Saying No can be downloaded for free online at www.drugtestingfails.org. Excerpts from the booklet also appear below:
Comprehensive, rigorous and respected research shows there are many reasons why random student drug testing is not good policy: