Excerpts From Amicus Brief of Prevention Groups in Support of Student Drug-testing

Our vulnerable school children have been prey to drug traffickers for too long. Because drug and alcohol use by students interferes with the fundamental purpose of public schools and students have a diminished expectation of privacy, public schools have a “special need” to implement random drug testing of students in order to deter substance use and to help the schools achieve their fundamental purposes of education and protecting young people.The school years are a critical passage in a young person’s life. The physical and psychological effects of drug and alcohol use can cause lifelong and profound losses. The Court has recognized a school’s duty to maintain an adequate learning environment, a component of which is that students are restrained from using drugs. Schools must be allowed to use all reasonable means to combat drug and alcohol use if education is to be successful. Substance use decreases a child’s chances of graduation and academic success.

Drug use can interfere with memory, sensation, and perception. Drugs distort experience and can cause a loss of self-control that can lead users to harm themselves or others. They interfere with the brain’s ability to take in and analyze information. Drug use erodes self-discipline and motivation which is essential for learning. The Court has noted that maturing nervous systems are more critically impaired by intoxicants than mature ones are, and childhood losses in learning are lifelong and profound. Children grow chemically dependent more quickly than adults, and their record of recovery is depressingly poor. (Several of the Amici are parents who had lost children to drugs).
A strong correlation between drug use and juvenile delinquency is documented in a study sponsored by the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The study found that the more involvement a youth had with drugs, the more likely that youth was involved in delinquency. Substance use creates danger in classrooms and increases the risk of accidents when students drive to and from school.
Students who avoid drug use during their high school years are not likely to subsequently use drugs; but if they later do, they more easily can stop using them. Drug testing can help students stay away from drugs. It gives students a reason to say “no” when their peers ask them to use drugs.

Drug testing is an extremely effective deterrent as was demonstrated by the Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, New Jersey, by surveys taken before and after implementing random drug testing for all student athletes. Approximately half of the student body participated in athletics. In the two years between surveys when there had been no changes in the school anti-drug program except the introduction of random testing, drug use went down in 20 of 28 categories. In the highest risk drug use category of “Multi-Drug Users” the rates went down as follows: 57% for 9th grade, 100% for 10th grade, 14% for 11th grade, and 52% for the 12th grade. Drug testing in other contexts has also enjoyed remarkable success, e.g., drug use in the U.S. Navy dropped from 47% in 1981 to 4% in 1984 after implementation of a drug prevention program including random testing.

Schoolchildren routinely submit to mandatory physical examinations, vaccinations against disease, vision and hearing tests, dental and dermatological tests, and scoliosis screening. These are preventative measures that do not require a showing that these diseases are rampant in the school.
Our nation uses random drug testing to provide for safe transportation and our national security by testing our military personnel, customs agents and railway workers. Our interest in student safety, health, and educational quality should not be derailed by student drug use and is equally compelling. We must be willing to defend our children with the same tools we use to defend our transportation system and our nation. Our children deserve no less.
For more information about school drug-testing, see web site of Drug-Free Kids: America’s Challenge – www.ourdrugfreekids.com


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