Fact Sheet: What the Experts Say on Student Drug Testing

Document Date: March 15, 2002

Social Science Research on Adolescent Drug Use and School Involvement

American Academy of Pediatrics, “Testing for Drugs of Abuse in Children and Adolescents,” (offsite) Pediatrics Vol. 98 No. 2 August 1996: The AAP writes in opposition to non-suspicion-based screening for drug use among adolescents as a prerequisite to participation in school activities, stating: “Notwithstanding the Supreme Court ruling [in Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton], students and student athletes should not be singled out for involuntary screening for drugs of abuse. Such testing should not be a condition for participation in sports or any school functions except for health-related purposes. Suspicion of drug use warrants a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified health professional.”

Dr. William Bailey, Indiana Prevention Resource Center, 1998 Survey of “Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use by Indiana Children and Adolescents,” (offsite): Results from the Indiana survey, relating reported drug use by various adolescent groups with the potential that a particular drug will be detected, suggest that “many random school drug testing programs are unlikely to detect much drug use, since they often target the lowest risk students with tests that are unlikely to detect use of anything other than tobacco or marijuana use.”

Dr. Jeanne E. Jenkins, “The Influence of Peer Affiliation and Student Activities on Adolescent Drug Involvement,” (offsite) Adolescence, Vol. 31, No. 122, Summer 1996: In a study of extracurricular activity involvement by 2,229 students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, Dr. Jenkins found that involvement in extracurricular activities was correlated significantly with decreased drug use. Further, she concluded that a student’s risks of engaging in drug use was heightened by continued association with drug-using peers.

The National Center for Education Statistics, “Violence & Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-1997” (offsite): Zero tolerance is a policy that mandates predetermined consequences or punishments for specified offenses. This report found that 94% of all schools have zero tolerance policies for possession of weapons or firearms, 87% for possession of alcohol, while 79% report mandatory suspensions of expulsions for violence or possession of tobacco.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence,” (offsite) Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 1995. Data provided by the Justice Department reveals that the peak hours for violent juvenile crime are 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the period when millions of young people are left without adult supervision or constructive activities. The sharpest increase in juvenile crime occurs between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., when the rate nearly triples.

Robert Taylor, “Compensating Behavior and the Drug Testing of High School Student Athletes,” (offsite) The Cato Journal Vol. 16 No. 3: “Civil Liberties issues aside, the random drug testing of athletes may be a very risky policy innovation?few people would question the desirability of minimizing the use of drugs among minors. The use of random, suspicionless drug testing of school athletes as a means to achieve this end is more open to question, however. Not only does this policy invade the privacy of a group of students who are relatively unlikely to use drugs, but it also discourages athletic participation and may actually lead to an increase in overall drug use.”

The Rutherford Institute, Amicus Brief (offsite) in Board of Education v. Earls: “The more students are engaged in the extra curricular life of the school, the less time and inclination they will have to get caught up in drug use.” If students are drug tested as a prerequisite for participation, the benefit of extra curricular activities occupying the time of students who might otherwise be using drugs is lost.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, “Adolescent Time Use, Risky Behavior and Outcomes: An Analysis of National Data” (offsite) (September 11, 1995): A government study of adolescent use of leisure time found that participation in extracurricular activities helps reduce student involvement in risky activities, such as drug use, by reducing their after-school free time. For example, in comparison to those who spent 1-4 hours per week in extracurricular activities, the 10th graders studied were: “57 percent more likely to have dropped out by the time they would have been seniors; 49 percent more likely to have used drugs; 37 percent more likely to have become teen parents; 35 percent more likely to have smoked cigarettes; and 27 percent more likely to have been arrested.” Further, the study found different relationships among various activities and risky behaviors: whereas student athletes were more likely to have engaged in binge drinking, students who participated in band, orchestra, chorus, or in a school play or musical were significantly less likely to engage in that or nearly any other problem activity.

U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime in the United States: Uniform Crime Reports (2000, 1998, 1993)” (offsite): There has been a continuing decline nationwide in the rate and number of youth arrested for serious violent offenses (criminal homicide, robbery, aggravated assault and forcible rape). Juvenile homicide rates, in particular, dropped 56% from 1993 to 1998.