Did the Michigan survey on the effectiveness of student drug testing support its conclusions?
March 24, 2004 – Hunterdon Central Regional High School began tracking student drug use in 1997. Following a 1997 survey of drug use among students, the high school added a random student drug testing program for athletes to its existing prevention programs. It then re-surveyed students in 1999 to measure the impact of that single change to its drug prevention program. What the data revealed was so compelling that the school did not hesitate to continue its random testing program.
In 2000, the ACLU targeted the school for a lawsuit and the random testing program was temporarily suspended pending outcome of the litigation. The school maintained all other components of its drug prevention programs during the suspension period. By July 2002, the high school had prevailed in the lower court. For the school administration, there was no question that the random student drug-testing program should be re-implemented. However, prior to re-starting the testing program, it was determined that the students should be re-surveyed. The data from the 2002 survey was compelling. The high school re-implemented an expanded testing program in December of 2002.
The ACLU appealed the case to the state supreme court. But, as with so many other ACLU-brought cases against schools conducting random testing of students, the high school’s random drug testing program prevailed and it continues today.
A University of Michigan study attempted to determine the effectiveness of student drug testing. The study’s conclusions were widely covered by the media. A thorough reading of the study would have revealed that it was seriously flawed in its methodology and that its highly-publicized conclusion is erroneous.
It would appear that many people, including the reporters heralding the conclusions of the study, did not actually review the study. However, knowledgeable researchers and others did review it. What they had to say about the University of Michigan study and its highly questionable conclusions is illuminating.
A careful reading of the study reveals that, astoundingly, even the study’s authors could not support their own conclusion, stating, “the study was limited by its design, making it impossible to establish a definitive link between student drug testing and the use of illegal drugs by schoolchildren”.