School Adds Alcohol Urine Test to Curriculum

ByABC News
January 29, 2007, 6:34 PM

Jan. 29, 2007 — -- Students at Pequannock Township High School in New Jersey will soon be subjected to a new sort of pop quiz, one that alerts their parents if they have been drinking.

They face a random urine test for alcohol, but unlike saliva swabs or Breathalyzers, the ETG urine test can detect whether a student has had a drink anytime in the last 80 hours, so a Friday night party would register on a Monday morning test.

The test has primarily been used on recovering alcoholics -- to check if they're staying sober.

Now Pequannock and several other schools around the country are using government grants to step up their alcohol monitoring, as underage drinking and driving kills about 2,000 people under the age of 21 each year.

"We have a serious problem," said superintendent Larrie Reynolds.

The random testing begins next month and doesn't sit well with everyone. The American Civil Liberties Union says it is an invasion of privacy.

"You send the wrong message by doing a mass test of all kids about whom there's no suspicion. I think it teaches kids that they have no rights at all," said Sarah Wunsch at the ACLU in Massachusetts.

And the federal government's own substance abuse experts warn that urine testing has drawbacks, because the test is so sensitive it can mistake the traces of consumer products like hand sanitizer or vanilla for alcohol.

Students who test positive at Pequannock won't get punished, but their parents will be notified, and for many teens that could be the most powerful deterrent of all.