The Random Drug Testing Controversy in New Jersey High Schools

October 28, 2013

In response to reports revealing a high incident of alcohol and drug abuse by New Jersey high school students, numerous high schools in the state have already put into place or are in the process of putting into place random drug testing protocols for students.  Many school districts endorse these policies to screen students for alcohol use, especially as a condition of participating in events such as prom or extracurricular activities, such as sports or choir.

Pursuant to these protocols, students are randomly chosen for testing, which usually requires that they submit to a urine sample.  If the testing comes back positive, the consequences vary by school district, but the student is usually referred for counseling and extracurricular activities are revoked.  Students that repeatedly test positive for drugs may be suspended, required to enter into drug abuse treatment, and prove that they are clean before returning to school. 

The constitutionality of random drug testing in schools is well established.  The United States Supreme Court decided Board of Education v. Earls in 2002.  In that case, the Court held that schools can legally require students participating in extracurricular activities to submit to a drug test.  The Court reasoned deterring teenage drug use outweighed the Fourth Amendment concerns in a public school environment.

Since then, more than 30 New Jersey school districts have put random drug testing into effect, although not without controversy.  Proponents argue that they support the random drug testing as a way to intervene when a student is facing drug problems.  They also argue that the policy seems to be working in other school districts.  Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that forcing students to submit to random drug testing, without prior suspicion that they are abusing drugs, is an invasion of privacy.  They argue that the testing creates an atmosphere over distrust and overstepped boundaries.  They also point to reports indicating that random testing is ineffective at curbing drug use.

Ultimately, if the proposal is put into place in any given school district, many students could end up facing drug charges, which can negatively affect their future.  Thus, parents and students can expect an increase in the number of juvenile charges filed throughout the state.  In this regard, police will most likely become involved in situations where students have tested positive for serious illegal drugs, such as narcotics.

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