The following letter to the editor appeared in the Examiner. It is reprinted here with Brendan Benedict's permission.

Random Drug Testing Should Create Uproar

This letter is written in response to a recent decision of the Upper Freehold Regional School District Board of Education to formulate a policy to conduct random drug testing in Allentown High School (AHS). The plan would affect students wanting to participate in extracurricular activities, attend prom or park in the senior parking lot. So already, the testing isn't random- the school is specifying a select group of students who will have to go through with it.

AHS Vice Principal Brian Myslinksi stated that there would be no disciplinary consequences except that students who test positive or refuse the test would lose the "privilege" to be in extracurricular activities.

Dr. Howard Taras, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics: Committee on School Health, stated that "Drug testing may decrease involvement in extracurricular activities among students who regularly use or have once used drugs. Without engagement in healthy activities, adolescents are more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant, join gangs, pursue substance abuse and engage in other risky behaviors."

A 2003 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan showed that random drug testing does not decrease the amount of students using drugs. The study also found that only 5 percent of schools in the nation are testing and of those 5 percent only 2 percent test for clubs outside of athletics.

And what about false positives? The Discovery Channel "Mythbusters" showed that people could test positive for drug tests simply by consuming poppy seed bagels.

There is not enough money in the district budget for this. According to Superintendent Richard Fitzpatrick, "There were $1.5 million worth of things that the administrators asked for, but we only have $500,000 we can spend." Priority one budgetary items are $261,925 in excess of the allotted cap increase. Allentown residents have an averaged expected property tax increase of $200 to fund the new budget.

A nearby school pays $27 a sample to have results of the drug test verified. If there were just 10 random tests at this price at AHS (with 10 percent of involved students sampled per test) it would cost $22,950. And there are notions of conducting this test every week. Do the outdated textbooks, greasy cafeterias, sloppy bathrooms, and unaffordable budget show that the district has plenty of cash to throw around?

Perhaps administrators will offer to take salary cuts to fund the drug testing (as their retirement package got $200,000 of additional funding under the new budget) or even submit to random tests themselves. Or perhaps the Board of Education will expect students to take cuts in actual education while passing more of the burden along to the taxpayer. A grant might sustain some of the costs, but it is only a temporary fix for what is likely to become a constant money hole.

But neither drugs nor money is the central theme of this issue. Personal privacy is. And everywhere at AHS, students are getting less and less. Cameras around every corner, the overzealous barracuda Web filter, Edline (your report card on the Internet!), debit cards that keep track of lunchtime purchases, locker searches, and SynchronEYES- the program where teachers and administrators can watch whatever you email or type on the computer.

When you get down to it, random drug testing is simply a gateway drug to students having less privacy. We used to be protected under the fourth amendment against "unreasonable search and seizure." When will enough be enough?

Random drug testing is simply a bad idea. It has shown no effectiveness to decrease drug use and might actually increase it. The constant amount of funding required only drains money that could go directly to improving a child's education. And, above all else, it's a gateway drug to the continued mitigation of student privacy.

Fitzpatrick said that random drug testing should be implemented as soon as possible without "causing an uproar in the community." I implore the students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers of the community to stand together and cause an uproar.

About the author:  Brendan Benedict is a Senior at Allentown High School.  He along with many of his classmates have organized Students Morally Against Random Testing (SMART) to combat the plans of school bureaucrats to randomly drug test all students.  The Upper Freehold Board of Education will be voting on this issue on March 19th.  Your support at the meeting would be helpful.