Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

June 30, 2005 - The Athens News (OH)

OpEd: Drug Testing Delivers Shock And Awe In Alexander School District

By Robert Wiley

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

I was shocked and awed by the June 24, Messenger front-page news about the 4-to-1 vote passage of a compulsory urine drug testing policy by Alexander School Board.

Perhaps I should have known about the school boards intent to provide a real-time civics lesson and to raise new interest in such classics as "1984", "Animal Farm" and "Lord of the Flies", by quietly abrogating the 4th Amendment Constitutional rights of its middle school and high school students.

I admit to a state of sorrowful ignorance of either the intent to enact such a policy or of any actual policy details, thus allowing a freedom to be snatched away and personal privacy to be "randomly" violated by a local government entity that is charged with educating, not policing our children.

I can't, however, be the only parent of an Alexander student caught unaware. While some notice may have been provided by the school board of the intent to consider this issue (and I can't yet find anyone who actually saw a written notice), there was certainly no publication of the actual policy to be implemented nor any real effort to assure that a public dialog preceded such a draconian action.

This sort of thing has been passed by other school districts around the country (generally after at least some public discussion), following the narrowly decided and highly controversial 2002 Supreme Court decision to allow compulsory drug testing of high school athletes (Board of Education of Pottawatomie County v. Earls).

Many other districts have considered such a policy and turned it down after soliciting public opinion. Some others have simply recognized that the schools are not prisons, nor arms of law enforcement agencies, and not gone down this slippery slope of "Big-Brotherism".

I do not yet know the intent of the school board or its reason for ramrodding this highly invasive policy through, with so little involvement from the parents of the children in the school district. Perhaps it was an honorable example of compassionate conservatism in action, with only intent to protect the children.

Perhaps it was just a bunch of guys making up some rules so that they can revel in the "high" of making people do things, while garnering more fees from parents and hoping for a DEA grant for the joining the front lines in the "War on Drugs."

Whatever the intent, it is currently impossible to determine whether all or any of the relevant issues were considered or resolved by the school board prior to passage. The single "nay" vote only suggests that we have at least one freethinking and freedom-loving member on the board.

There are issues that need to be considered and openly discussed prior to going forward with this policy. Some of these include the following:

* Urine tests are an invasion of personal privacy and a violation of the 4th Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches. Courts have allowed "special needs exceptions" for circumstances where warrants are impractical or dangerous, and there is a compelling need to favor the protection of society over the rights of the individual.

* A positive test result is an assumption of guilt of the person tested, placing them in a position of having to prove their innocence or suffering consequences. This turns upside down the fundamental concept of American justice; that one is innocent until proven guilty.

* Urine tests can and do result in false positives for drug use. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications may mimic illegal drugs. Physical and mental stress-induced natural chemicals in the body may also result in false positives.

* Since the 2002 Supreme Court decision to allow drug testing in schools, there has been a proliferation of drug testing service companies who have a vested interest in claiming drug tests accuracy and full reliability. These companies actively market school districts.

* As with any laboratory testing, strict protocols must be followed to assure samples are properly handled to prevent sample quality degradation, loss or inadvertent mixing. How diligent will a testing contractor with a fixed price be, if his costs increase from inflation or the numbers of tests exceed his bid?

* There is an approximately 48-hour testing window for most drugs and alcohol. A negative result would only show that a person has not used drugs for that period.

* Urine tests are embarrassing and humiliating to the person being tested. To assure that there is no cheating, a testing agent must be very close to the person providing the sample.

* Even with a testing agent present, the certainty of collection of a real sample declines as the tested population becomes educated to the procedures. Given that most of our children are not stupid, avoidance strategies will emerge rapidly (some strategies may include switching substances to abuse).

* There are potential consequences for students and parents beyond the realm of Alexander School District. House bill 1528 entitled, "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2005" currently pending in the US Congress, would require such school testing programs to forward positive test results to federal law enforcement agencies.

* The policy as reported in the paper focuses on testing athletes, cheerleaders and people wanting driving permits. This is generally the least likely portion of the population to abuse drugs.

* Suspect persons may also be tested, but this can be done now (without this policy) and with a court-issued warrant.

* The group not routinely tested by this policy includes all other students outside the extra-circular categories, the school staff, the teachers, the administrators and the school board. Would it not be fair and reasonable, if there were a real public interest to be protected and favored over individual rights, for all of these individuals to also be subject to urine testing?

* The burden of proposed additional $30 fee per student to implement this program has not been fully considered. Can all the parents of the district really afford this, on top of the already high fees and activity costs, and the increased property taxes now imposed for the new school building?

There are certainly other issues that can and should be publicly brought up and discussed before this policy is implemented.

For one thing, this policy will institute procedures that may not even redress the drug problem (if there is one) and provide a false sense that "something" is being done. It will alienate students from teachers and the administration. It will teach a lesson that it is OK to violate fundamental freedoms to implement opinions or agendas of those currently in power.

Such a policy is so fundamentally in conflict with America's notion of freedom and fairness, that implementation must be based on the informed consent of the majority of parents in the district, not on the opinions, agendas or fears of a few board members. I feel that dialogue on this policy should be re-opened and would like to hear from other Alexander School District parents interested in discussing this issue.

Robert Wiley is a Lee Township resident and Alexander School District parent.

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact