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Police Academy: Are School Security Measures Going Too Far?


Who's doing it: About 1,000 school districts now randomly test students, with half of those districts receiving $34 million in federal aid, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Believers say: Drug use is still high among teens. And kids can always opt out of testing (typically, schools are legally allowed to test kids who are on athletic teams, participate in extracurricular activities or have parking privileges). And since schools aren't allowed to report those who test positive to the police, results are used only to get kids help.

Critics say: Marching a kid into a restroom and listening while they pee is way too intrusive. "This is an example of a public institution reaching not only into your children's lives but also into their bodies," says Bill Sciambi of Pittstown, New Jersey, who has a 15-year-old and has worked with other parents to block drug testing when it was proposed at Delaware River Regional High School. "The money spent on drug testing should instead be put toward drug-abuse counseling and more extracurricular activities." (A test costs anywhere from $10 to $30.) Doctors agree. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, opposes such tests because they can give false results. And some teens say testing may push kids to try drugs that don't show up in urine tests, such as Ecstasy.

Reality check: Solid data exists on both sides. A University of Michigan study found that testing doesn't work. Another study of Indiana high schools found that it does. No matter which data you believe, experts say, the danger is that parents might be lulled into believing there's a single, silver-bullet solution to teen drug use. "The issue is complex," says Marsha Rosenbaum, Ph.D., director of the Safety First Project, part of the Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes testing. "It's naive to think testing will solve the problem." Even advocates of testing say it's only one part of the process. "We need to address the lack of drug treatment options for teens," says Bill Judge, an Oak Park, Illinois-based lawyer who consults with schools on their drug testing policies "It's our job to protect kids while providing the best possible learning environment."