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Annette Fuentes in the Huffington Post on the random drug testing of students in US high schools

Michael Bacal23 March 2012

Last week on  The Huffington Post, Annette Fuentes, author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, weighed in on the recent case of a Santa Fe high school that has just introduced—to the surprise of both parents and several administrators alike—a controversial new drug testing program aimed not at teachers or staff, but at its students. The practice of random drug testing in schools is not only vehemently opposed by parents and civil liberties groups, but also, for example, by the American Academy of Pedicatrics whose extensive research on the issue clearly demonstrates the lack of evidence of any effective school-based drug testing.  More alarming, perhaps, are the additional concerns that Fuentes's article draws attention to, which most notably address the new testing practices which proceed by sampling hair particles instead of through traditional urinalysis. Fuentes writes:

Paul Armentano of NORML, the marijuana law reform organization, told me the research indicates that hair testing for drugs may be more sensitive on the hair of people with darker pigmentation. "There have been allegations of an inherent bias in the test," he said.

In addition to this, she notes: 

The possible discriminatory nature of the hair test on St. Mike's students -- a large percentage of whom are Latino -- adds to the concerns she has about drug testing in a school where there is no obvious problem. "We are looking for a more thoughtful, attentive and personal approach to kids who are having trouble with drugs," Ortiz [a parent in Santa Fe] wrote. Ortiz was also outraged by comments from Psychemedics [the company contracting their drug-sampling technology to the school] salesman George Elder during a meeting in February about the drug testing program . . . "which smacked of racism to me."

Fuentes goes on to note how Psychemedics, as part of a growing drug-testing industry, has begun to increasingly target private Catholic schools—which do not offer the same constitutional protections to their students as do public schools —and further expand into these newer markets.

Visit the Huffington Post to read the article in full.


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