Newsbrief: Bush Proposes More Money for School Drug Testing 1/23/04

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In a section of his State of the Union speech sandwiched between a denunciation of universal health care and an attack on the looming threat of gay marriage, President Bush Tuesday night took time out to praise his administration's teen anti-drug efforts and call for more federal funds for drug testing of students.

"One of the worst decisions our children can make is to gamble their lives and futures on drugs," said Bush. "Our government is helping parents confront this problem, with aggressive education, treatment, and law enforcement. Drug use in high school has declined by 11 percent over the past two years. Four hundred thousand fewer young people are using illegal drugs than in the year 2001. In my budget, I have proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce demand for illegal drugs. Drug testing in our schools has proven to be an effective part of this effort. So tonight I propose an additional 23 million dollars for schools that want to use drug testing as a tool to save children's lives. The aim here is not to punish children, but to send them this message: We love you, and we don't want to lose you."

But while Bush and his drug czar, John Walters, are eager to push school drug testing, they might want to look at what the researchers at the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future (MTF) project had to say about the utility of drug testing in the schools. MTF conducts annual surveys of middle and high school students to determine drug use levels. It is MTF figures on drug use that Bush cited in the paragraph above.

"Drug testing of students in schools does not deter drug use," MTF announced in a press release in May 2003. "The research findings challenge the premise that has been central to the rationale for schools adopting a drug testing policy." According to the statement, investigators found "virtually identical" drug use rates at schools that tested and schools that don't. The finding hold true across grade levels, the research found.

MTF found that 19% of American high schools tested for drugs, but 14% of those only tested "for cause," or if drug use was suspected. Only 5% of high schools had a drug testing policy that extended beyond "for cause" testing. There is good reason for that, said Lloyd Johnston, head researcher for MTF.

"We think that one reason so few schools test their students is that it is an expensive undertaking," said Johnston. "Schools are very pressed for funds, and I would say the results of our investigation raise a serious question about whether drug testing is a wise investment of their scarce resources. It's also very controversial with parents and students," he pointed out. "The way that drug testing has been carried out in the schools looks very unpromising. I have no doubt that one could design a drug testing program that would deter teen drug use, but at what monetary cost and at what cost in terms of intrusion into the privacy of our young people?"

But never mind all that. It sure made a good sound bite. And after all, Bush wants to do this out of love.

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Issue #321, 1/23/04 Ron Crickenberger Dead at 48 -- As Libertarian Party National Political Director Made Drug Policy Key Issue | Death, Madness, Mayhem! Brit Tabloids in Fits Over Pot | Review Finds Anti-Drug Campaign Works on Parents (Sort Of) But Not Kids -- Findings Contradict Drug Czar's Rosy Views | Minnesota Sentencing Commission Report Says State Could Save $30 Million Per Year With Treatment Not Prison | Newsbrief: European Union Envoy Criticizes Colombia Coca Fumigation | Newsbrief: Peruvian Coca Growers Prepare to Gather, Government Gets Nervous | Newsbrief: Bush Proposes More Money for School Drug Testing | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Kentucky Governor Unveils New Drug Offender Plan -- Less Prison, More Treatment | This Week in History | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | The Reformer's Calendar

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