number of schools in the U.S. are drug testing students in hopes that it will curb student drug use. The majority of these policies target student-athletes or participants in extracurricular activities, and on both sides of the debate, many questions remain: Is student drug testing an invasion of privacy? How prevalent are drug-testing policies in U.S. schools? Does research show that these policies work? A look at the facts provides a clearer picture about the benefits and problems associated with student drug testing.
In the early 1990s, many school districts began to look into drug testing as a way to curb student drug use, which led to two U.S. Supreme Court cases involving student privacy. The court upheld the constitutionality of drug testing student athletes in 1995, and in 2002, the court expanded high school drug testing policies to include all students who participate in a competitive extracurricular activity. In those rulings, the court stated deterring student drug use was more important than privacy.
Does It Work?
The majority of research suggests that drug-testing policies don't lead to any -- or only a slightly modest -- decrease in student drug use. One ground-breaking study, conducted by the University of Michigan in 2003, found that schools with drug-testing policies had slightly higher rates of student drug use. At schools with drug-testing policies, the study found that 21 percent of students were using drugs, compared to 19 percent at schools without policies. A study by the National Center for Education Evaluation confirmed those results. Another recent study, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, found that policies didn't stop male students, and drug testing only worked as a deterrent for female students in schools with positive student-teacher relationships and clear rules.
How Common Is It?
According to a 2008 study from the National Drug Abuse Institute, about 14 percent of schools...
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