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Random Drug Testing and The Questions We Should Be Asking

Written by Bjenning Oct 15, 2007

Alright, let’s get the unfortunate necessities of this topic out of the way. I am not endorsing drug use. I think drugs are generally bad and harmful, especially to people my age who take them and thus retard their development in some way, whether it by psychologically or physically or some intriguing combination of the two. That is not what’s being discussed here. I’m not talking about drug use being a good idea, I’m talking about the law.

A school in Morris Hill New Jersey is thinking of instituting mandatory random drug tests for its students. A lot of parents are in favor of such a program, and I can understand where they’re coming from; not having to trust your kids must certainly be a burden lifted from their shoulders.

Now the program sounds nice enough:

Chris Steffner, principal of Hunterdon Central Regional High School, spoke about the program in her district, which was the first to start random drug testing in 1996. Students who test positive are not expelled or suspended, just referred to a counseling program, she said. There is no notification of law enforcement, nor do the test results go in student records.

The idea, she said, is to deter students and give them another reason to say no to drugs and alcohol. Steffner likened the tests to a parked police car that causes motorists to slow down.

But students have rightly pointed out, that parked police cars slow you down for all of 10 seconds. But that’s not really the issue. The issue is that students are being suspected guilty until proven innocent. Adults, except professional athletes and a few others, cannot be randomly drug tested by the police without probable cause, it’s basically like searching someone’s house. Now, if you’ve been arrested for possession the police can certainly test you, but they can’t just walk up to you on the street and say “Here, pee in this cup.” Though I have a feeling people would have very interesting views of the police if they did.

Sadly, the response to a very logical legal argument (Supreme Court say that searches require “Probable Cause”) is generally countered by a much less logical emotional argument :

Sarah Martucci, a sophomore at Morris Knolls, told the room about a family friend whom she lost to drugs. “If there were more programs like this, then maybe I would still have (my friend) in my life today,” she said.

While such tragedies are always regrettable, one person abusing drugs does not mean that you treat that entire person’s generation like a bunch of potential drug abusers. Yes, you might catch someone who will slip under the radar, but rights can’t just be seen as a cost/benefit analysis. Would we be safer if the government videotaped everyone of us from dawn until dusk and had the capability to go through all that info to see who was breaking the law? Sure we would. There’s a reason we don’t do that. It’s a violation of our American, some would say human, rights. This is no different.

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