Student Well-Being

White House Backs Wider Drug Testing in Schools

By Mark Walsh — September 11, 2002 3 min read

The Bush administration’s drug czar is telling public schools in a new document that drug testing of students has “enormous potential benefits” and that concerns about damage to individual privacy are “largely unfounded.”

“Already, testing has been shown to be extremely effective at reducing drug use in schools and businesses all over the country,” John P. Walters, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, says in the booklet. “As a deterrent, few methods work better or deliver clearer results.”

“What You Need to Know About Drug Testing in Schools,” a 17-page guide released Aug. 29, emphasizes that the decision on whether to adopt student drug-testing programs should be made by local school officials and parents. But the tone of the publication favors expanded testing.

The impetus for the guide was the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 27 decision that upheld a district’s policy of drug testing a wide group of those in extracurricular activities. The court ruled 5-4 that testing those who participate in such activities as the marching band and Future Farmers of America does not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches. (“Supreme Court Allows Expansion of Schools’ Drug-Testing Policies,” July 10, 2002.)

The Supreme Court decision in Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 v. Earls is “a big step in the right direction, for it gives every school in every city and every town a powerful new tool for controlling one of the worst threats facing kids today,” Mr. Walters says in the document.

The Bush administration earlier this year had argued in the high court in favor of the Tecumseh, Okla., school district and its policy of testing extracurricular participants beyond athletes. The Justice Department even argued, in response to a question from one of the justices, that testing all students in a public school would pass muster under the Fourth Amendment.

Mr. Walter’s guide does not go that far. It says the high court ruling “is not a blanket endorsement of drug testing for all students.” It urges districts to consult a lawyer before adopting any drug-testing program. It also urges against serious punishment of students who test positive, such as expulsion from school.

“Results of a positive drug test should not be used merely to punish a student,” the document said. Schools should contact parents of a confirmed drug user and engage them in a treatment process. But it supports consequences for positive drug tests such as suspension from extracurricular activities or revocation of parking privileges.

The guide from the drug-control-policy office was criticized by groups that have been skeptical of the constitutionality and the wisdom of drug testing. But groups that had lined up on the side of the school district in the Earls case welcomed the office’s stance.

An official of the American Academy of Pediatrics said the medical group stands by its policy opposing drug testing as a condition of participation in activities.

“Drug testing is very limited, and it doesn’t identify the dangerous substance most commonly used by adolescents, which is alcohol,” said Dr. John R. Knight, a member of the AAP’s committee on substance abuse.

The National Education Association has not wavered from its opposition to student drug testing, said spokeswoman Kathleen Lyons. The Associated Press quoted her as agreeing with the White House guide’s statement that students testing positive should not be expelled. That’s true, she said, but that doesn’t mean the union has changed its position against drug testing.

“Our position is that just because drug testing is legal doesn’t mean it is a good idea,” she said.

But Katherine Ford, the communications director of the Drug Free America Foundation, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based organization, supported the drug-control-policy office’s guide.

“We know drug testing in the workplace and in the military has been a very successful tool toward deterrence,” she said. “We would like to see those same benefits apply to our children’s workplace, which is their schools.”

DeForest Rathbone, who runs a grassroots group called National Institute of Citizen Anti-Drug Policy in Great Falls, Va., said he and others tried unsuccessfully to get the Clinton administration to support student drug testing.

“They stiffed us,” he said. “Now, we’re tickled to death that the Office of National Drug Control Policy supports the concept.”

Related Tags:

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
Speech Therapist - Long Term Sub
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Whitepaper
Building a Trauma-Informed Learning Environment
Download this white paper to learn how to recognize trauma and gain strategies for helping students cope and engage in learning.
Content provided by n2y
Student Well-Being Opinion How to Help Students Know When It’s Time to Quit—and When It’s Not
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. Here’s how to consider the decision to persist or stop.
3 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Student Well-Being Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event
How educators can help students unpack emotions in the wake of troubling news events in a way that clears space for learning.
5 min read
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
Pro-Trump rioters try to break through a police barrier at the U.S. Capitol.
John Minchillo/AP
Student Well-Being Infographic Data Snapshot: What Teacher and Student Morale Looks Like Right Now
See how the pandemic is impacting the morale and motivation of teachers and students in this exclusive EdWeek Research Center survey.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
Mood Emojis shown in the form of a chart with data graphs ghosted behind them.
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Getty<br/>