Just Say No to Random Drug Testing: A Guide for Students

These days, more and more schools are testing kids for drug use. The theory is that if students know they might be tested, they'll just say no to drugs. Unfortunately, what these schools don't realize is that drug testing is NOT the answer to their drug problems. For one thing, there is no concrete evidence that randomly drug testing students deters drug use. And it does not address the reasons why kids turn to drugs in the first place.

If schools are serious about keeping their students from abusing drugs, then they should listen to the experts – to the National Education Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry – who all say that one of the best ways to keep kids off drugs is to get them involved in school and extra-curricular activities. Instead of putting up barriers like drug testing, schools should engage students in meaningful activities.

If your school has implemented or is considering implementing a drug testing policy, consider this:

  • Is it legal for your school to have this policy?
  • Even if it is legal, is it in your school’s best interest?

What you will find is that in most cases, drug testing is not the way to go, and you can do something about it! Stand up for your rights, and don’t be afraid to “Just Say No” to drug testing!

You Have Rights!

If you have been tested for drug use, it is natural to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable: your privacy has been infringed upon.

Any student can express his or her discomfort with drug testing. Depending on the laws in your state, you not only have the right to vocally oppose drug testing, but you may also have a right to legally challenge drug testing in your school. In order for a school to implement a drug testing policy, there must usually be reasonable suspicion that you, as an individual, are using drugs. Unless you are an athlete, the fact that some students may be using drugs may not be enough to allow a public school to drug test you!

Know your rights in school! Like your teachers and your principal, you, too, have fundamental rights! Check out the ACLU Students’ Rights page to learn more. ACLU state affiliates in Louisiana, New York, Northern California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Washington have also put together terrific guides to student rights that you should check out.

Meet students, like Lindsay Earls, who had the courage to defend the Constitution by taking a stand against school practices they believed to be wrong.

Check out organizations and groups dedicated to helping students.

Take Action!

Be Familiar with Your School's Policy

  • Get all the facts about who is being tested and why by acquiring a copy of the written policy. You can do this by asking school administrators for a copy. You have the right to obtain the exact policy in writing.
  • Find out who is responsible for the creation and implementation of the policy and who has the power to change it. Talk to your principal, school administrators, teachers, superintendent, guidance counselor, etc., so that you can understand where the policy has originated. In most schools, the policy must be approved by the Board of Education, an elected or appointed group that meets regularly in public.
  • See why groups such as the ACLU oppose random student drug testing.

Get the Word Out

  • Tell your parents about the policy and ask them to help challenge it.
  • Enlist the help of a sympathetic teacher or other school staff member. A teacher or staff member can be an invaluable resource in navigating the system and understanding how you can initiate change.
  • Talk to your friends and classmates at school. Let them know about the situation and how they can get involved.
  • Submit a piece to the school newspaper with your contact information so that students who also feel strongly about this issue can join forces with you.
  • Contact the local press and let them know what is going on in your school and why you think this is unfair. Arrange a meeting with the editorial board of your local newspaper to express your views. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece (like the one submitted by the ACLU of New Jersey) to your local newspaper.
  • Start a letter writing campaign to your School Board representatives and other locally elected officials. Just as lobbyists put pressure on members of Congress, students can put pressure on their School Board to advocate for change.
  • Contact your local Parents Teacher Association (PTA) to let them know the situation and why you are concerned.

Organize

  • There is strength in numbers. Get together with your peers and start an organization that is committed to educating the community about students’ rights. Don’t hesitate to call your group “Students for Freedom” or some other name that reflects your ideals. Check out the ACLU’s Student Organizing Manual to learn the basics on how to get started.If your public high school allows any extracurricular activities, it must allow you to form an official on-campus organization for this issue.
  • Poster your school. Put up signs on your bulletin board, stating the law and students' rights. If your school allows any flyers or posters, they cannot bar you from voicing your opinion, even if they don't agree.
  • Encourage your peers to write letters to the School Board and speak at Board meetings.
  • Encourage your peers to write articles and alert the press. The more students you can mobilize, the better chance you have of getting the desired result.
  • Keep a record of everything that happens pertaining to drug testing in your school. Keep copies of articles, letters, and the actual policy, and have them on hand.
  • Don't forget the basics: if you create an organization, meet at a regular time and place. Designate someone to represent the group. These simple tactics make your group more legitimate and stable.

Attend School Meetings

  • Call a meeting with other concerned students, parents, and teachers and arrange a meeting with the School Board to express your concerns about the policy.
  • To find your School Board’s contact information, you can ask a school administrator, contact your public library, or surf the Internet. For instance, the National School Boards Association has a directory of state School Boards that you can check online.
  • Find out when your School Board meets and the process for getting on the agenda to speak at meetings. In most cases, you cannot just show up and speak at a meeting. You must be placed on the agenda ahead of time.
  • Be armed with information. Tell them why you are opposed to your school’s drug testing policy and how the policy violates your rights as a student. Include some quotes and facts from the experts that will help you make a strong, clear argument.
  • Consider writing a formal complaint with signatures from other students and teachers to distribute to the members of the School Board.

Contact your local ACLU

  • If your school is unresponsive, contact your local ACLU affiliate for help.

Don't Give Up!

  • Persistence is an asset. It takes time to make a change, so don't give up!
  • Keep up with changing drug laws – check out the ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project to learn more and keep up-to-date.

Remember!

  • Remain non-confrontational at all times.
  • Never yell or threaten - you could get in trouble!
  • Many school administrators and School Board members are not aware of the reasons why drug testing is not a sound policy.Simply explaining the problem and citing the reputable organizations that oppose the policy may be enough to open their eyes and start a dialogue.

 

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