ACLU opposes random drug testing in Duluth schoolsThe American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is urging the Duluth School Board to reject the random drug testing of students.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is urging the Duluth School Board to reject the random drug testing of students.
This week, school officials brought research on a possible suspicionless drug testing program to a board education committee. The rough proposal indicated testing, if approved, would include taking weekly random samples from students who participate in co-curricular activities like hockey
and mock trial, those who register to park in school parking lots and students who sign a pledge saying they won’t use illegal drugs.
“We’ve got some profound problems with this,” said Charles Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota ACLU, especially with the idea of testing students who park on school lots and those who pledge to refrain from illegal drugs. “I think this is way too broad and a solution that isn’t going to work for a problem that, frankly, doesn’t seem to exist.”
Random drug testing will drive students away from extracurricular activities, and is probably unconstitutional, Samuelson said.
Studies show that random drug testing doesn’t reduce student drug use, he said, citing a national study done by Monitoring the Future in 2002, which covered three years and included 76,000 students.
If a school is trying to reduce the demand for illegal drugs, he said, it’s important to gain the trust of students.
“Is this a trust-building exercise?” he asked. “You will drive alcohol and drug use deeper underground.”
In 2005, the Cass Lake-Bena school district in Cass Lake, Minn., and the Forest Lake, Minn., school district contemplated such programs. The Minnesota ACLU encouraged both of those districts to reject implementation, Samuelson said, and they ultimately did.
“These are driven by the war on drugs,” he said. “It hasn’t worked.”
But a 2010 U.S. Department of Education study, conducted by the Institute of Education Sciences, found that students subjected to random drug testing reported less substance abuse than students enrolled at schools without such programs. The study also found that the drug testing didn’t have a negative effect on the number of students participating in activities subject to drug testing.
Duluth school Superintendent Bill Gronseth was at the Minnesota School Boards Association Leadership Conference in Minneapolis on Friday. When reached by phone in the evening, he hadn’t yet read the letter sent by the ACLU, so he declined to comment.
The district has not yet scheduled a time for the School Board to vote on whether it will move forward with a plan. What it proposed Tuesday is similar to Superior High School’s program, which began in 2006. If the idea is approved, a policy would be fleshed out this year and shared with students and the community next year. It would begin in the fall of 2015.