White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit in Albuquerque on February 6

Press Release February 3, 2008
Media Contact

Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798 or Julie Roberts at (505) 310-4592

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) 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. The fifth summit of 2008 takes place on Wednesday, February 6 at the Marriott Albuquerque Pyramid North, 5151 San Francisco Road at 8:30 a.m.

The Drug Policy Alliance and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are providing attendees with copies of the Drug Policy Alliance’s booklet Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators Are Saying No, which summarizes research showing that such testing is ineffective and provides resources for evidence-based alternatives.

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 is damaging — it breaks down relationships of trust,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “All credible research on substance abuse prevention shows that we need to bring young people closer to their parents and their schools, not push them away. We already have effective programs in New Mexico and we should focus on expanding those, rather than pursuing something with no basis in research.”

A group of concerned citizens will also attend to provide educators with important information missing from the summit, such as the objections of the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, the Association of Addiction Professionals and the National Association of Social Workers to testing. These organizations believe random testing programs erect counter-productive obstacles to student participation in extracurricular activities, marginalize at-risk students and make open communication more difficult.

“The irony of drug testing programs is that they alienate students from the very activities that are most effective in keeping kids out of trouble,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of ACLU of New Mexico, “They drive students away from programs like athletics that have been shown to build character and set students on positive life paths. Schools would be wise to reject drug testing and spend their limited resources on new or expanded extracurricular programs instead.”

A December 2007 policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse and Council of School Health reaffirmed their opposition to student drug testing, holding: “Physicians should not support drug testing in schools …; [because] it has not yet been established that drug testing does not cause harm.”

New Mexico educators have not embraced student drug testing. This past September the Rio Rancho School Board indefinitely postponed their vote on a proposed drug testing policy, citing concerns about the cost of the program and the lack of evidence that drug testing programs deter drug use among students. Board member Divyesh Patel said, “I want data. I want statistical proof of the effectiveness of this type of policy. If it does not deter drug use, I don’t want to spend money on this.”

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:

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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