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Florida Students Should Be Drug Tested, Proposes State Senator


January 1997

In December, Florida state Senator Ron Silver (D-North Miami Beach) filed legislation mandating random drug tests for every middle and high school student in the state (Diane Hirth, "Legislator wants random drug testing in schools," Sun-Sentinel (South Florida), December 22, 1996, p. A1; "Florida," USA Today, December 23, 1996, p. 11A).

Silver, chairman of both the Dade County delegation and the Senate subcommittee that controls spending on criminal justice, says random drug testing would prevent drug abuse by teenagers at a time when adolescent drug use is rising. His proposal calls for students who test positive for drugs to loose their driver's license or have it deferred until they complete a drug education and treatment class. Silver wants the issue heard once the legislative session convenes on March 4.

Critics say the expense of testing Florida's 1.1 million middle and high school students at $20 per test would be too high with potentially minimal results. In 1990, then Governor Bob Martinez called for testing thousands of state workers, but his proposal was rejected as too expensive. Poco French, president of the Broward County Council of PTAs, said she would like to see some proof that random drug testing would benefit student safety and achievement before spending millions of dollars on such a program.

Other critics say it would invade students' privacy. Florida Education Commissioner Frank Brogan said his office is studying the proposal. Brogan said that he appreciates Silver bringing this issue to the table, but that "students do not check their constitutional rights at the door." Robyn Blumner, executive director of the Florida affiliate of the ACLU, said, "I wonder about the civics lesson kids are learning. That the constitution is for adults only? Let's fix the schools first."