Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Random Drug Testing: A Spector of my Past

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (Bill of Rights)

From a distance I have been watching the random drug testing discussion in Hillsborough these past few weeks. It was heartening to see the Courier News “Our Opinion” column address the very concerns I had years ago when I joined Mike Joye in filing a lawsuit against Hunterdon Central ("Is the medicine worse than the ailment?", Courier News, January 8, 2008, pp. A-8, or http://www.c-n.com/, click on “Our Opinion” under the 'Opinion' category). When introduced at Central, I was on the Hunterdon Central Random Drug Testing Task Force and worked intimately with the ACLU challenge. They were on my speed dial for a few years. I know from whence I speak here. I know how many students were tested based on suspicion the year before random drug testing was introduced, fewer than 2% of the population, probably under
1 and 1/2%. Over several years, we all traveled together to the state Supreme Court. We the parents lost by one vote.

Random drug testing of students weakens the strength of both the federal and state Constitutions. It weakens parental control to address an issue that may not be so desperate that it requires such a dramatic reaction by our schools. For instance, at one point Hunterdon Central, getting resistance from parents to come in and be present during the testing, opted to just eliminate the requirement that parents be present.

Hunterdon Central consistently argues random testing is a deterrent. It gives the students an out. Well I can argue that the traffic lights in Flemington keep out the pink elephants. You get my drift. How many pink elephants are there here in Flemington? What Central never produced was a shred of evidence independent of the drug company intervention we saw at Central or Central’s own claims to support this statement. Central offers the argument based on just, well, offering the argument. Let’s get some evidence independent of Central’s conjectures and independent of those drug companies and labs that stand to profit.

In 2003, the University of Michigan released the results of a survey of more than 600 middle schools and high schools. This INDEPENDENT survey indicated that there was NO STATISTICAL DIFFERENCE in drug use of students between schools that tested and those that did not.

This is the type of data that should be combed through before our citizens have to forsake any more rights. In the absence of such independent data, although I requested it as a task force member, I concluded that the big winner here is DATIA, The Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry. Google it. Parents have every right to insist on independent data to substantiate the claim that random drug testing is a deterrent. Be sure to know the source of that data. Weakening parental control and constitutional protections is a serious matter. The benefits need to outweigh the losses.

There is always the option of a voluntary testing progam that would respect everyone's rights.
Stay tuned.


MediumPetey said...

Sometimes you liberal libertarians are just so damn predictable it makes my teeth hurt. "Ten percent to the left of center in good times. Ten percent to the right of center if it affects them personally. A lesson in safe logic.".

You have no problem using government to impose a burden on others who are bicyclists ---for their safety ---when bicyclists are perfecting capable of deciding what is best for their own safety. However, when it comes to drugs in schools----no, parents must make the choice about their kids.

First of all, your 'pink elephants' analogy fails on its face. Hunterdon Central does have a drug problem with their youth; Flemington has no problem with pink elephants trampling through town --[unless it's the ones people will see when they drink too much to avoid dealing with what Hauck & Co are doing to this town, but I digress...].

The fact is that the government [in this case, the school] has a right to enforce a policy that has an impact on a constitutional right [4th Amendment rights in this case] if they have a compelling or legitimate reason, and the impact is narrow in its scope. That is the case with random drug testing. The compelling reason is drugs are a problem in the high schools.

Secondly, no students in the high school are compelled to be there. Their parents can home school them. They can be sent to a private school. If you don't like the random drug testing policy that much, no one forces you to send your daughter or son there.

When a person enters an environment voluntarily, as a student does in a high school, they give up willingly certain rights in order to be present in that environment. For example, in a post-Columbine age, the school might require each student to walk through a metal detector. That is an invasion of privacy, and a possible imposition of 4th Amendment rights. However, no one compels the child to go to that high school or to a particular college. With the drug problem and/or gun violence problem being what it is, such impositions are a small price to pay for safety. Once again, you are certainly welcome to send your child elsewhere. Parents are in absolute control at all times.

As far as the random drug testing being a deterrent----it is simply logical that it would be so. Just like police presence on a street is a deterrent to speeding, or the threat of getting a parking ticket is a deterrent to parking illegally. Your 'pink elephant; analogy makes no sense.

The 4th Amendment is not absolute. No amendment is. Young adults in an environment that is essentially pedagogical in nature do not have the same broad rights adults. That is just logical.

Courier News Flemington blog said...

Well, Mediumpetey, you are so wrong on so many levels I do not have time to address all of them.

Connecting this to Mayor Hauck is a sign of your stream of consciousness reasoning and utterly nothing to do with the question at hand.

I will never argue that there are not students in any schools that do not use drugs. What is the most effective way for all society to address the problem?

I have a healthy skepticism about a school that assesses its substance abuse problem by letting Roche (a pharmacy company), that had just developed a slick testing cup after the Supreme Court rendered the Vernonia Decision (Google it), bankroll a survey that …surprise! what do you know!!!… showed that a lot of students use drugs. Schools, says Roche, is a place to market these cups. Then Central spearheads the campaign to random drug test using a Roche marketing director, Bob Aromondo, to sell this to this community. As a task force member, I saw the figures of suspicion based testing the prior year, under 1 and 1/2%. This is hardly an epidemic of drug abuse. Do you take any facts into account?

You are wrong about the testing being a deterrent. Your logic is not born out. According to the Univ. of Michigan study that included 600+ middle and high schools, there is no difference in the amount of abuse between schools that test and those that do not test. I provided the link that you selectively disregarded when forming your opinion. Central’s own expert also bankrolled by Roche, Dr. Michael Walsh, The Walsh Group in Washington DC, helped put together the drug testing programs for the military under Pres. Reagan. I recall him telling our task force that the true abuser plays the odds that he will not be tested. The abuser does not think like the law- abiding citizen. With school testing programs the odds are in the abuser’s favor that he will not be tested. Not much deterrence. To my recollection, according to Dr. Walsh for random testing to be a deterrent, the abuser has to think he has a 50/50 chance of being tested on any given day. Schools cannot possibly test that many students on any given day. So, MP, your conclusion about the efficacy of random testing of students is not correct. Dr. Walsh’s comments may explain the Univ. of Mich. results.

Exceptions to the Constitution are allowed under strict circumstances. One is that all other means to deal with a problem are exhausted. That is not the case here.

Now, in less than a week you felt that I should be censored because you do not like something I said and argued rather speciously against people preserving 4th Amendment. The Founders, an ale swilling group as I understand them, I daresay would be utterly disheartened by someone’s attempt to water down the 4th Amendment in order to solve a social problem that will always be with us. It will probably never be solved given human nature. In the meantime, the so- called war on drugs has been executed with as much disregard for people, property and the law as has been the war in Iraq under Rumsfeld.

Sir, I believe that the US Constitution is what stands between my good life here and life under a Third World dictatorship. My grandparents came from the lands of dictatorships, fraught with invasions of privacy. You bet I will fight to preserve the Constitution. My only question is why aren’t you doing likewise?

MediumPetey said...

Connecting this to Mayor Hauck is a sign of your stream of consciousness reasoning and utterly nothing to do with the question at hand.

No, that's a sign of a sense of humor, which you obviously did not have in this case. You're forgiven.

AND I certainly did not assert that you should be censored. Nothing of the sort. Again, you misconstrue. I simply asserted that your blog should be in the politics section of the Courier News blogs, not the community section. Much the same way sports belongs in the sports section, and funnies belong on the comics page, your comments are 'political', and should be on the politics page. Hope that clears up your misconception. There's a reason why the newspaper runs op-eds on the Editorial page, not in the shopping section. It just makes sense.

Now back to the point at hand,

Your conspiratorial theories about the folks at Roche aside [which curiously you provide no proof of yourself, by the way]----there is a drug problem in Hunterdon. If not, why have task force to begin with? Google "drugs" + " teens" in NJ. I am sure you'll find what I found ---hundreds of hits.

Drug testing deters drug use in the workplace and schools----http://www.dfaf.org/studentdrugtesting. I find it your radical libertarianism on this issue rather disturbing. Would you not want drug testing of pilots? Of doctors in hospitals? Of other emergency workers? Thank g-d that you're not in charge of national security, the airlines, or Hunterdon Medical Center!

Exceptions to the Constitution are allowed under strict circumstances. One is that all other means to deal with a problem are exhausted. That is not the case here

Wrong! There is NOTHING in the law or court decisions that say all other means to deal with a problem are exhausted. The Supreme Court says the means must be the least restrictive, narrowly construed, and serve a legitimate purpose, and compelling need. I fail to see why you think that drug problems are not such a need.

Once again, your side lost because you are wrong. The NJ SC made the right choice. And, everyone's grandparents came from the lands of dictatorships, fraught with invasions of privacy. So, get off your high horse here. I defend the constitution, and its application in practical terms ----not some abstract absurdest notions of absolutism radical libertarians would have us believe.

Courier News Flemington blog said...


If the reference to Mayor Hauck was a joke, I think you may need new material.

I stand by my response. You don’t like what I say. You want me stopped. Your argument is a strawman. So let’s say that now I will do political analysis--- local, state, national and international--- on my blog. Now it is official. But back to your point, this is a blog on Flemington and surely talking about Boro council defies no basic guideline here about appropriate topics except the one you arbitrarily posed that only political writers can comment on Flemington politics.

Now regarding proof of Roche’s involvement: I have files containing Bob Aromondo’s signature, Bob Aromondo, marketing director. He chaired the task force for a while. I sat with him and Dr. Walsh for weeks on this task force. I have the packets that were delivered by Federal Express from Roche to my house. I have the survey from Rocky Mountain Institute that Roche bankrolled. Just what kind of proof do you need?

I absolutely support drug testing airline pilots and others in unsupervised, safety sensitive positions, like the NJ Transit workers. I support drug testing the military where Dr. Walsh got his start. But testing the population at large to deal with a social issue is another matter, entirely. If you see no difference here I conclude you do not really understand the Constitution and its attempts to protect us from a too powerful government, which is any citizen’s greatest danger. Why stop at searching us for drugs? Why not disregard the 4th Amendment to see if we are cheating on our taxes? Have illegal weapons or stolen property? In “ The Hunt for Red October” the Russian political officer justifies his search of Capt. Ramius’ quarters by saying that the collective good (whatever the “collective good” may mean) outweighs his privacy. Is that where you stand?

It is my understanding that circumnavigating the Constitution, here it would be the state Constitution because that is where the challenge was made, requires other means have to be exhausted and this is a last resort in addition to the points you made. But I would have to defer to the ACLU that spearheaded the legal technicalities here.

My conclusions are based on specific information not generalities and broad brushing. Compelling?… the absolutely overwhelming majority of American citizens, including students are not drug abusers. The mission of any school is to educate and Central’s mission was in no way, shape or form threatened. Drug abuse is more appropriately a medical problem. Suspicion based testing was effective in identifying those students that need help as opposed to viewing all students now as possible drug abusers. Deterrence through random testing was never demonstrated. A voluntary testing program would protect everyone’s rights.

Again I ask why you don’t defend the Constitution? I am sure you like the benefits it offers you.

MediumPetey said...

Once again [and twice before this time], I asserted nothing of the kind regarding a desire to have you “stopped”. A dozen trains and a hundred anchors could not do that. I stand for your First Amendment rights, and merely stated that your blog should appear in the politics section, rather than the community section. If you can show me where I wrote that you should be “stopped”, please cut and paste it for me in your next post. You will not be able to find that, because it does not exist.

And your personal files are meaningless. I am talking about verifiable proof that can be produced that Roche [or any other company] actually advocated for drug testing for high school students because it was profitable for them to do so. That, in your conspiratorial manner, has been asserted and not supported, period.

Finally, once again you twist and turn points like so many pretzels, and craft arguments against that which no one has asserted. No one here [nor I] ever asserted that there should be “testing [of] the population at large to deal with a social issue.” I asserted that random drug testing of high school students, in a school with a history of drug problems, is entirely permissible. The students are in a special environment [not part of the ‘population at large’]; the students are minors, and do not have the same constitutional rights adults have; there is no obligation for the students to be present at the school ----if they or their parents do not like the random drug testing policy, then they can home school their children or send them to private schools that do not have a random drug testing policy. Your assertion that parental control is lost is wrong on its face: The parents are in complete control at every stage of the decision making process---the parents can vote in a school board that opposes a random drug testing policy; the parents can send their children to private schools or home school them. And parents of the high school students approve, also---as shown in survey after survey.

The Supreme Court said that the policy is permissible in Joye v. Hunterdon Central Bd. of Educ. (A-27-2002) the case you were an appellant.

And once again your asserting a line from popular culture to support your point is hardly dispositive or even allegorical. Although, you’re getting better ----this time you quoted from a major motion picture rather than a TV show. That is a step up.

So, I will take a step down and quote Porky Pig, “That’s all, folks!”.