School Drug Testing
On July 13 a mass e-mail was distributed to all parents and guardians from Jennifer Schmidt (high school principal) and Patrick Burke (middle school principal) outlining a new drug testing policy that would be implemented for 2017-2018 school year.
Snippets from the email are as follows:
“Participation in MSHSAA activities and school clubs and organizations, as well as parking in school parking lots, are privileges and carry with them the responsibility to adhere to high standards of conduct, including refraining from the use of illegal drugs, performance-enhancing drugs, and alcohol. To assist students in making healthy and safe choices, the district will conduct random drug testing of students in grades 7-12 as a condition of participation in covered activities. Covered activities are activities regulated by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), school clubs and organizations, and parking in the school parking lots.
The purpose of this policy is to help prevent substance abuse among students, to encourage treatment for students with substance abuse problems, and to ensure that students have the opportunity to attend school and participate in activities in a fair, safe, and healthy environment.”
The drug testing policy concerns me for a multitude of reasons.
First of all, this is a clear violation of our children’s Fourth Amendment. They no longer have the ability to feel at ease in school without worrying if a urine, saliva or hair sample will be demanded and seized.
Second, if you notice in the aforementioned paragraphs it states “to ensure that students have the opportunity to attend school and participate in activities in a fair, safe, and healthy environment.” Please note a couple of key points: if children don’t drive to school (utilize the parking lot) or they don’t participate in any extra-curricular activities, they are exempt from the drug testing policies and will not be held to the same standards as those children that drive, the football players, cheerleaders, volleyball players, band and choir members etc. Hypothetically, the students that walk to school could be drug addicts on a binge for days on end and essentially they receive a “pass” for their indiscretions. That isn’t reinforcing fairness, safety and health.
Since when did our educators become substance abuse counselors? They’re at school to do just that; educate our children. Furthermore, our educators, superintendent and School Board Members park in the same parking lot as our children. Shouldn’t they be held to the same standards that they want to impose on our children? We should lead by example. I’d much rather see those educating our children drug tested vs. our children drug tested. It seems logical.
Third, my research on drug testing within school districts does not significantly reduce drug use amongst students. However, it does significantly increase the school’s budget. That is passed along to yours truly, the tax payer. A standard drug test can range anywhere from $14-$30. A standard test for steroid use is about $100 per test. Alcohol is usually not detected by a standard urine drug test because it leaves the body quickly; hence, it must be detected with a Breathalyzer test shortly after consumption and a standard test for alcohol is $30. I’m being generous.
The current research reinforces previous conclusions that student drug testing is a relatively ineffective drug prevention policy (Goldberg et al., 2007; Sznitman, 2013a; Yamaguchi et al., 2003). On the other hand, interventions that improve school climate may have greater efficacy. Indeed, ‘whole school’ health promotion efforts and interventions that work with students, teachers, and parents to develop positive school staff-student relationships and promote students’ security have been found to reduce substance use (Bond et al., 2004; Fletcher et al., 2008). Let’s say we hypothetically tested a football team of 11 players each for a standard urine drug test (we’ll use the lowest cost of $14 each), also steroids at $100 and finally test them to make sure they’re not drinking ($30 each). The total comes to about $1600 and that is just for the MINIMUM amount of players. If you’re a football fan you know Sullivan has a large football team (Go Eagles)! As you can see the testing costs add up quickly. If you tested approximately 300 students (less than half of the high school) at $145.45 per student (a full battery of tests on the cheap end) the total is $43,635. That doesn’t include any subsequent testing. Who will be paying for this? Talk about a budget crusher! The money could go to so many things to improve our district, especially with the new school being built. New equipment for the new school, Improvements to our existing librariaries, educational field trips, new equipment for sports, uniforms .. the list goes on and on. (Drugwarfacts.org)
Finally, statistics and research indicate parents/guardians, along with educators play an important role in preventing drug use; not drug testing. If we are relying on our school district to inform us that our children is using drugs, folks, we have dropped the ball as parents! We need to sit our children down and have real talks with them. Explain the dangers, the adverse affects and the consequences of drug use. Prevention is key! Make our children understand they will face peer pressure in their life but it’s all about taking the high road and resisting it. It’s actually COOL to say “no.” Educating our children and arming them with facts vs testing them and essentially punishing them is not the way to handle this. If you’re a parent you know exactly what I’m talking about. Testing them and calling them out will make them rebel. Our children need to understand peer pressure is and will always be around them regardless if they’re 15 or 51. Its extremely important to hold true to the DARE core values and “Just say no.”
An informational meeting will be held at the Sullivan High School theater on Wednesday, July 26 at 6 pm. I encourage all citizens to attend, gather information and share your thoughts.