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No Drug Tests Needed in a Perfect World

April 18, 2002

Re ''It's School, Not Prison,'' editorial, April 15: The Supreme Court has upheld suspicionless searches to conduct drug testing of railroad personnel involved in train accidents, to conduct random drug testing of federal customs officers who carry arms or are involved in drug interdiction and to maintain automobile checkpoints looking for illegal immigrants and contraband.

While students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate, the nature of those rights is what is appropriate for children at school. Public school children in general, and students involved in after-school programs in particular, have a diminished expectation of privacy.

A school that has determined that drugs are a scourge should be able to stamp out drug use not only by the least-intrusive means possible, that is, by drug testing on suspicion of drug use. The fact that the drug tests are random ensures that drug use among students will be reduced to a minimum. Oftentimes the drug user will not display any outward signs of impairment or abuse. Moreover, drug testing based on reasonable suspicion imposes the prospect of arbitrary testing, which inevitably results in lawsuits.

The Times asserted that the stoners would be the least likely to participate in after-school programs. The Vernonia School District in Oregon found that athletes were the leaders of the drug culture. The Times should applaud a high school willing to eradicate drug use rather than censure it for requiring that students involved in after-school programs submit to random drug testing.

Gregory Givens

Redondo Beach

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My brother is a high school principal in Oklahoma, and his school already tests students involved in any after-school program. The net effect at his school has been significantly reduced student absenteeism, an increase in after-school participation and an inferred reduction in drug use among students.

Parents are generally clueless about their children's drug use. But they are aware of their participation in after-school programs. Linking the two has given parents a heads-up about potential problems. If Johnny suddenly drops out of band, Mom and Dad want to know why. Kids are more likely to be influenced to not use drugs if they know testing will keep them out of school activities. It will not, as your editorial implied, keep them from joining school clubs.

In a perfect world, high school student drug testing would not be necessary. We do not live in that world.

Jim Slemaker

Pacific Palisades

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