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Ask the Expert

Signal Photos

 

More study needed on drug testing

Posted: April 28, 2008 3:05 a.m.
Updated: June 29, 2008 5:04 a.m.
 
To The Editor:

On March 27, The Signal reported that Hart School District officials, after facing considerable opposition from parents and faculty, are still in limbo concerning the implementation of random student drug testing (a practice that is becoming more common in America) in an attempt to deter drug use.

One day earlier, the Australian National Council on Drugs denounced testing, finding it to do more harm
than good.

The philosophy underlying testing is this: Students know they could be tested at any time, so will stay clean in order to avoid punishment.

Random testing, however, is not so random - it targets student athletes, and occasionally those who engage in other extracurricular activities. While after-school programs are proven to reduce teenage drug use, the fear of punishment often prevents students from even seeking to participate, making drugs a more seductive choice during the critical hours between the end of school and the time when parents come home from work.

Beyond matters of cost and ineffectiveness, the Australians raise several other critical points against testing. First, students may attempt to avoid positive tests by taking drugs that are less detectable but often more dangerous. This puts students at even greater risk and teaches them how to cheat the system, rather than to make good choices.

Secondly, drug testing turns teachers from mentors into wardens, damaging important relationships of
trust between adolescents and the adults they should feel comfortable approaching with serious problems.

That's why experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose school drug testing, and so should Hart District officials who have students' safety in mind. We hope they will consider the findings of the Australian council when making their final decision.

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