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November 23, 2005 - Hattiesburg American (MS)

OPED: 'Just Say No' To Student Drug Testing

By Paul Vardado, Hattiesburg native and student at Duke University's Sanford Institute of Public Policy in Durham, NC

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

In Lamar County this year, students in government class are learning that any American is innocent of a crime until proven guilty in a court of law.

Down the hall, their peers are being forced without reason or suspicion to prove their innocence by urinating into a cup on demand.

The school board should reconsider its drug-testing program for students who participate in extra-curricular activities because these invasive programs set a bad example in a free society and because, more importantly, drug testing simply doesn't work.

A drug screening, which is a search and seizure of part of one's body, is justified when there is reason to suspect that the person is breaking criminal law. It also makes sense when it will prevent harm to others in society.

For example, it would be dangerous to have truck drivers on crystal methamphetamine or drunk airline pilots.

A student who simply wants to join the debate team or play softball clearly doesn't meet either of these standards.

Nevertheless, if it were true that student drug testing had the power to end drug abuse among our youth, we should go for it. Most evidence, unfortunately, shows that testing is not effective.

Most recently, a federal study of 76,000 students by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research found that there is no difference in the level of illegal drug use between students in schools that test for drugs and those in schools that do not.

With the exception of marijuana, the window of detection for most drugs is less than 48 hours. Therefore, negative tests often give parents a false sense of security that their kids are drug free.

Drug treatment experts around the nation are concerned that drug testing creates more harm than it prevents.

Teens who face the possibility of a drug test are more likely to binge drink or use less detectable but more dangerous drugs, such as ecstasy, cocaine, inhalants and prescription pain killers.

Programs like the one in Lamar County prevent at-risk youth from bettering themselves through activities.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this alone makes them more likely to become drug abusers.

Let's do a better job of teaching children in Mississippi how to make responsible decisions. Then let them make those decisions on their own.

Raising our young people to live in fear of authority, even at school, is surely not the American way.

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