During the George W. Bush administration, the debate concerning random drug testing of students began in earnest. Schools were actually given federal funds as a “no drugs measure.” The purpose was to help those students who might be trying or beginning to use drugs. To date, there has been little empirical studies to prove or disprove the effectiveness of random testing.
Drug testing within public and private school setting has long been debated. The controversy seems to emanate from the basic issues of personal privacy under constitutional law. Another question is whether the random testing is a deterrent to drug use.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that schools may test entire teams of student athletes, even if individual team members are not suspected of using drugs.
In 2002, the Supreme Court allowed the use of tests for any student who participates in any extracurricular activity that has an element of competition.
In New Jersey, a state that does use random testing, one study indicated that the majority of students who are involved in extracurricular activities are less likely to abuse drugs. A study of several of these New Jersey schools stated that there was clear evidence that the RSDT [Random Student Drug Testing] had a positive impact on drug use in those schools.
Early intervention is a valid argument for the drug testing. There must be acceptance on the part of the administration, teachers, parents, and even students to monitor warning signs of drug abuse and an intervention must be made without hesitation when a student exhibits the signs. The other side of the coin emphasizes that if there is no suspicion or probable cause than that student should not be subjected to the drug test.
Nothing seems to be working. The drug problem remains while the ethical battle continues on. The scare tactics and education programs seems to have no real effect on those students who choose to use drugs. Supporters of these laws feel that the benefits that random drug testing can provide, such as a reduction in drug use as well as early intervention for identified substance abusers, far outweigh the potential negative litigation surrounding the issue
The controversial aspect of the drug testing exists from the inherent violation of privacy more than being caught for drug abuse. Many legislators and school administrators are hesitant to enforce random drug testing. This reluctance comes from the feeling that students have rights and these tests encroaches upon the individual's right to the presumption of innocence, as well as the right to be free from unreasonable and unwarranted searches. This argument has been tested in the courts and has always won.
The other side of the coin emphasizes that if there is no suspicion or probable cause than that student should not be subjected to the drug test.
Random drug testing in public high schools is expensive to implement and the money can be spent on other areas of the school's needs, like improving the extracurricular activities in the school, buying new books for students or even implementing drug-prevention strategies for at risk students.
Many school districts are strapped for cash, and many argue that using random drug tests will only add another cost to an already tight budget. In school districts where the board was considering a drug test for its teachers, staff members argued they would rather use the funds appropriated for the tests to be reinvested into school supplies or other teaching aids. They also contest that the practice takes away valuable time the teachers could spend in the classroom.
If the testing is mandated, many schools will not be able to implement the programs because they are already strapped for cash.
My personal belief is that with the agreement of all parties involved there should be no reason not to submit to random testing. If two or three students with substance abuse are found and actions are taken to rehabilitate them, I believe that it would be a deterrent for marginal students.
On the other hand, I fully understand the costs. Schools are strapped for money. The federal government could subsidize if needless expenses were cut. As in most controversial topics, it will take something extreme to happen in order to have any expansive program instituted.