A leading pediatrics group has advised that drug testing in schools is a bad idea, though it may be a look at what is to come. A student comes to school with bloodshot eyes, is seen eating large amounts of food, and the student’s school gives a random drug test. These are some of the reasons a school has grounds to drug test students, hunger and red eyes.
Gone are the days when students had to smell of marijuana, or are seen exhibiting symptoms of being high before a school could drug test a student. While there are any number of reasons why a student may have red eyes, this can now be considered grounds to test the student for drug use. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advise against a school testing students for drugs, but parents are torn on whether to listen to doctors or to school officials. A statement released today by the AAP suggests that such practices are archaic and do not benefit students.
In the past, these policies were thought to prevent students from experimenting with illegal substances. Instead, studies show that it does not prevent drug use, and tends to conjure distrust between students and their school system. The tests administered are quite inaccurate, and anxiety alone can cause the tests to show false-positives and false-negatives. These tests also fail to detect any alcohol in a student’s system, which is the more widely used substance among minors.
The AAP is not in disagreement with drug use prevention, but feels random urine tests are not the way to go about it. If anything, schools could implement mandatory assemblies and programs for students thought to be at risk of abusing drugs. Education towards prevention of drug use is not something that is prevalent in many school systems. This in itself is somewhat controversial, considering the statistics on whether such education actually prevents drug use. The continuation of these education programs and drug testing seems like a look at what is to come, ineffective programs that continue to be used and funded.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program is still taught in schools throughout the country, though it has not been found to be effective. The U.S. Department of Education prohibits schools from using their funding on the D.A.R.E. program, because the program has been found to be completely ineffective in reducing the use of illicit substances. Some adults who went through the program as children only remember getting to see dozens of different substances for the first time when a police officer showed them.
Legally, schools are only allowed to target students who play sports or are involved in extra-curricular activities. This means that the vast majority of students who are considered most at risk go unnoticed. Students most likely to use illegal substances are those who are not involved in such activities. Students from broken homes, children with criminals for parents, and those who are or have been abused seem to just fall by the wayside. Mostly, these urine tests are done in bulk at certain points in a school year. This means that sporadic use by students, which is typically how students use substances, is almost never found.
Being that the cost of these urine tests are paid for by the school, and are more than $30 per test, this practice seems gravely cost ineffective. Another point the AAP brings up in its report is the invasion of privacy for such tests. Though, they readily admit that this is a problem in every school. They also recommend against such practices because a person’s body is theirs to do with as they wish, and it is not the school’s right to know a student’s personal bodily choices.
Considering that the consensus of many world leaders is that drugs should be decriminalized, it is a wonder that schools feel they have the right to randomly test students for substance use. By the time students graduate high school, well over 50 percent of them will have tried an illicit substance more than once. Some experts believe this is simply a modern right of passage and cannot be prevented. The consequences for having substances in one’s system include suspension and even being expelled. Unless the stigma behind experimentation ceases, it appears that random drug testing in schools is only a look at a potentially dark future yet to come.
By Benjamin Johnson
Photo by Iqbal Osman – Flickr license
Photo by Robin San – flickr license