Those who support drug testing at schools say that it has a profound effect on reducing drug use among students. There have been several reports done on the subject that reinforce the need for drug testing in schools.
But opponents to random drug testing say these studies are deeply flawed and that they culled their results from only a handful of schools. According to critics of the practice, very little reliable research has been done that supports the effectiveness of random drug testing.
Other research done on the effects of random drug testing show that it did little to change the rate of drug use among school aged children and teenagers. These results come from the first nationwide study on the subject that was done between 1998 and 2001 with 76,000 students in junior high and high school.
The study found that student use of illegal drugs was surprisingly not affected by testing, even among athletes. Consequent studies done with higher numbers of students at even more schools came up with similar results. The authors of the studies concluded that drug testing doesn't do much to change students' attitudes or beliefs about drug use, thus doing very little to reduce their drug use.
In addition to the ineffectiveness of random drug testing, critics of the practice say that testing actually has a number of downsides, the most serious of which is the violation of students' privacy.
How drug testing affects students' relationships with teachers and coaches.
Critics of random drug testing say that its effects have far reaching consequences for students and the teachers, coaches, and other school officials they interact with on a daily basis. The testing damages the student-teacher trust that must exist in order to create an environment that supports and nourishes education, communication, and growth.
That trust also encourages students to feel more comfortable talking about drug use and other issues that affect students in their age group and can lead to drug use (such as peer pressure, depression, anxiety, troubles at home, etc.). Teachers and other officials become police-like figures in schools where random drug testing is performed and students begin to feel that they can no longer turn to them as confidants and supporters.
Critics of drug testing also say the practice is costly and time consuming, cutting into valuable class time at schools that should be spent on education and other enriching activities.
Drug testing and student athletes.
Most of the drug testing that takes place in schools is directed at students who participate in extracurricular activities, especially athletics. This kind of testing has been proven to help lower drug use among student athletes, but it also has some downsides.
In many instances, the drug testing that goes along with participation in extracurriculars has kept many students from wanting to participate in them, which is a shame because afterschool activities provide a productive outlet for students. Studies show that students who participate in sports and other extracurriculars are much less likely to develop substance abuse problems and engage in other risky behaviors.
Supporters of drug testing say that it is the best way to prevent steroid use in student athletes, and it does seem like the most effective way to do just that. Critics of testing disagree however, saying that steroid testing is expensive and does little to deter student athletes from using drugs.
Drug testing and privacy.
Critics argue that testing destroys the trust between students and their teachers, replacing an educational atmosphere with one of fear and suspicion. Many believe that drug testing assumes students are automatically guilty unless they can pass a drug test clean and that it also violates their basic rights to privacy. Lawsuits have been filed in many states challenging the practice.