White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit in Newark on February 27

Press Release February 25, 2007

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is conducting a series of regional summits designed to convince local educators to implement across-the-board random, suspicionless student drug testing. This policy is unsupported by the available science and opposed by leading experts in adolescent health. The second summit of 2007 takes place on Tuesday, February 27th in Newark at the Hilton Newark Airport, 1170 Spring Street at 8:30 a.m.

Although the ONDCP has toured the country for the last three years promoting student drug testing, the largest study on the effectiveness of such testing, conducted by respected federally-funded researchers in 2003, found no difference in drug use among 94,000 students who were tested and those who were not.

Selected regional educators and drug testing industry representatives have been invited to attend the Newark summit, where the ONDCP will continue to describe student drug testing as a “silver bullet” to prevent adolescent drug use. A group of concerned citizens will also attend to provide educators with important information missing from the summit, such as the objection of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of Addiction Professionals and the National Association of Social Workers to testing. These professionals believe random testing breaks down relationships of trust between students and adults and contribute to a hostile school environment.

“Educators who are making important decisions about student safety need to know that leading adolescent health experts believe that random drug testing can undermine the protective factors that help keep young people out of trouble with drugs,” said Daniel Abrahamson, a Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse Fellow of the New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Director of Legal Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “These sweeping surveillance programs may in fact deter young people, especially those most at risk, from participating in the very extracurricular activities that keep students supervised and connected between 3-6pm — the peak hours for adolescent drug use.”

Schools in New Jersey have rejected the policy. In 2006 the Board of Education of the Delaware Valley Regional High School District in New Jersey researched the issue, engaged parents and after discussing all sides concluded that random drug testing did not serve the goal of reducing drug use among students and had the potential to harm that effort.

Bill Sciambi, a parent who helped successfully oppose the policy at the Board of Education of the Delaware Valley Regional High School District said, “This is an issue that should be dealt with by education, counseling and intervention. Whatever dollars are spent on random testing should instead be spent on substance abuse counseling, intervention and help.”

Students have spoken out against suspicionless testing. Christopher Lauth, a 2006 graduate of Hackettstown High School in New Jersey, said, “Random student drug testing has broken trust between students and school staff and the environment has changed. After the program was passed there was a significant rise in students abusing alcohol since it can only be detected for a short time compared to a month for other drugs.” He noted, “It absolutely deterred students from extra-curricular activities and students already in activities were not the ones in most need of help. The program is actually the worst enemy to accomplishing exactly what proponents claim to be fighting for — helping students at risk.”

Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators Are Saying No (2006), a 25-page booklet published by the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU, provides the latest scientific research on student drug testing. The booklet 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 found online at http://www.drugtestingfails.org. Excerpts from the booklet are included below:

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

There are alternatives to drug testing that emphasize education, discussion, counseling and extracurricular activities, and that build trust between students and adults.

The first regional summit of 2007 was held in Charleston, South Carolina (January 24). Additional summits will be held later this year in Honolulu, HI (March 27) and Las Vegas, NV (April 24).

Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are Saying No can be found online at www.drugtestingfails.org.

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

Sign up for updates from DPA.