White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit in Omaha on October 21

Press Release October 19, 2008
Media Contact

Jennifer Kern at (415)373-7649 or Laurel Marsh at (402) 476-8091

OMAHA — The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is conducting a series of regional summits designed to convince local educators to begin drug testing students — randomly and without cause. This policy is unsupported by the available science and opposed by leading experts in adolescent health. The latest summit will be held on Tuesday, October 21 at the Doubletree Hotel, 1616 Dodge Street, Omaha, Nebraska.

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 Jennifer Kern, Youth Policy Manager at 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.”

Random student drug testing is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, the Association of Addiction Professionals, and the National Association of Social Workers, among others. 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 Laurel Marsh, Executive Director of ACLU Nebraska. “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.”

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.

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

Sign up for updates from DPA.