Random Drug Testing of Students Sends the Wrong Message

Caleb Stoll, of Springfield, Mo.,with Employee Screening Services, lables a urine specimen vile Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, at
Caleb Stoll, of Springfield, Mo.,with Employee Screening Services, lables a urine specimen vile Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, at Linn State Technical College in Linn, Mo. On Wednesday, the central Missouri school began conducting drug screens for all new students and any returning after an extended break in attendance. (AP Photo/Kelley McCall)

Add the West Platte School District in Missouri to those who have chosen to attack the epidemic of student drug use by requiring random testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities.

They can't just randomly test any student, but courts have ruled that those who are in sports or after-school organizations can be tested because participation in these activities is a privilege and not a right.

The good intentions of those who have formulated such policies across the United States, including the school district where I teach, cannot be questioned. They know that drugs are a significant problem with today's youth and they want to do something about it.

Random testing is not the answer.

Those who have opposed this approach often cite invasion of privacy. That is a genuine concern. Students who would never even dream of using drugs are treated like common criminals. No probable cause is needed. If you want to be in a sport or compete in debate or participate in marching band, you are going to be tested.

This is not the American way.

But that is not the main reason I oppose random drug testing.

Simply put -- we have no evidence that it works and at least anecdotal evidence to indicate that it doesn't. For every student who stops taking drugs cold turkey to be in an activity, I hear of students whose use of drugs is likely minimal, but who don't participate in extracurricular activities for fear that they will fail the drug test.

In other words, students who might be headed down the path to drug use are avoiding the type of involvement that might steer them in the right direction. While it is true that drug use does play a key role in students dropping out, it is just as true that lack of involvement in school activities is also a factor in dropping out.

The greatest drug use is among those who are not involved in sports or other activities -- students who become so involved in the drug culture that regular school and the extracurricular activities that make school so enjoyable are simply not a part of their lives.

These are the students who are not being tested. These are the students that the law tells us we cannot test.

Therefore we target those participate in the sports that often keep them on the straight and narrow. That is not a recipe for success.

It follows a path that has been taken in Missouri and many other states in dealing with the meth problem. Instead of finding a way to target those who are breaking the law, state legislators made it far more difficult for law-abiding citizens to legally obtain the drug pseudoephedrine, which is a common ingredient in meth. The idea that people who have never committed a crime, people who are not suspected of committing any crime, should have to make sacrifices because society cannot come up with a workable plan to combat a problem that does not require the punishment or inconvenience of the innocent is not American.

In this country, we take pride in the freedom of individual rights. It is amazing that we have so many people in this country who go apoplectic at the thought of any restriction of gun rights who have absolutely no problem with the government invading their children's bodies without probable cause.

When that activity is being promoted by the same schools that are designated to teach young people about the freedoms they enjoy this country, it is sending the wrong message. When we roll over and accept this without complaint, we are risking an erosion of those freedoms we cherish.

Random drug testing for teenagers is not the answer.