No More Schooling While Drunk - New Jersey To Give Students Alcohol Tests
I came across an interesting news item that a New Jersey school district has announced that it's going to randomly test students for alcohol-use – using urine tests that apparently can detect if alcohol was consumed as many as 80-hours earlier. Not that I want to encourage underage drinking, but I think this is an ill-conceived attempt at agenda-driven policy. It may have been created out of the best of intentions, but its ramifications needed to be thought through more seriously before its instigation.
While random drug-testing has been allowed by the courts, I'm not so sure that this will stand up to the inevitable challenge. Here's what makes this different. Drug-tests are allowed because there's a two-fold concern – first, concern that drug-dealing and drug-using take place on campus, and second, that kids who are loaded pose an imminent threat to themselves and others – especially in something like a sports-activity where kids may be intentionally smashing into each other to begin with.
But, as quoted by AP, the Superintendent's interest in alcohol-testing doesn't at all relate to students' on-campus activities; instead, she specifically moans the number of teen drunk-driving fatalities. While those are of course tragic, there's a vast difference in justifying testing on activities completely unrelated to school, compared to a claim that it's dangerous to have a kid high on speed running around a football field.
What's really troubling about the District's position is that it's essentially a "no confidence" vote for the parents in the community. It's impossible to see this action without concluding that the District has essentially decided that parents have wholly failed to police their kids in this regard; thus, the schools must act in loco parentis - legally becoming the kids' parents. Schools can do that, but only for very specific reasons, and under very prescribed circumstances.
Even beyond the troubling in loco parentis position, it's hard to see that this will not result in the schools becoming a police enforcer, designed to identify (and presumably punish) those are drinking underage. Again, in exigent circumstances, that can be allowed – but that's not what the Super's concerned about.
The whole thing reminded me of an interesting study of school districts who did or didn't institute drug-testing. The report, in Education Law Review, found that the schools with drug-testing policies were schools that did not seem to have drug problems. Yes, you read that sentence correctly.
Only 12.7% of the Superintendents surveyed said the efforts to initiate a drug-testing policy were arising out research that there was actual drug-use in schools. Instead, for more than 50% of the districts, the policy was simply based in a personal view by the district's Superintendent or its School Board that drug-testing should be put in place. With no support whatsoever.
And I noted that (at least in the AP report) the New Jersey Superintendent who announced alcohol testing doesn't address if alcohol-use has ever been a problem in her schools.