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Drug Testing in Schools

Drug testing in schools is a very hot and controversial topic. Some schools’ drug testing procedures have also been controversial. School administrators are in charge of ensuring a healthy, safe, and supportive school environment where students can learn and reach their fullest potential. In order to do this, certain measures must be implemented into the system, these preventative measures include drug, alcohol, and tobacco use among students.

In the past, schools used to turn toward programs like the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program that was launched in Los Angeles, California in 1983, which had good intentions of alternative education and support for children to reduce their risks of either using drugs or being exposed to drugs. However, in the end, research showed that the program didn’t work. Rather than supporting proven drug prevention practices, some schools are now taking the more controversial and punitive approach by drug testing students.

Can Schools Drug Test You?

Currently, there are no federal guidelines or laws that govern drug testing in schools. However, the Supreme Court has ruled in two separate cases that grant public schools the right to administer a school drug test in certain circumstances:

  1. The Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that schools have the legal right to conduct random drug testing in schools for their athletes.
  2. Then in 2002, the Supreme Court expanded its ruling to include students who participate in extracurricular activities such as chess clubs or marching bands.

Drug Testing in High School Athletes

High school drug testing is based on workplace drug-testing protocols. School drug screenings are also known as random student drug testing (RSDT), and these random screening tests can only be given to certain bodies of students such as clubs or sports teams. High school drug tests must be conducted at the school, and high school drug screenings are generally done with urinalysis tests, which detect cocaine, cannabis, PCP, opioids, and amphetamines.

The goal for drug testing high school students is to identify the early stages of drug abuse for certain students in order to intervene and refer them for substance abuse treatment. However, reports have also suggested that dismissal from extracurricular activities and expulsion have occurred as a result of high school drug screenings.

Although the Supreme Court’s ruling has put limits on the constitutionality of drug testing high school students who are participating in certain activities. Some high schools across the nation have expanded their drug testing policies to cover students more than select groups. As an illustration, students who attend dances, students who drive to school, and in some cases, to an entire student body. The legality of these expanded programs is still unclear.

Zero Tolerance Policy in Schools Pros and Cons

Just like any other controversial policy, when it comes to zero tolerance and drug testing in schools, there are pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Drug testing in schools allows for early intervention.
  • Students’ prospects for success can be increased.
  • School administrators are providing a safe and drug-free environment.
  • Students are given real-world experiences with real-life tools to resist peer pressure.

Cons:

  • Athletics and extracurricular activities are pro-social activities that could be protective of drug abuse. When a student receives a positive drug test, the long-term effects can be detrimental as this can also lead to future disqualifications from extracurricular activities.
  • Although students are not supposed to be punished or expelled for failing a drug test, reports suggest that eight percent of students who tested positive were expelled.
  • It’s very easy for students to cheat drug tests by using a urine sample from another student or use other drugs like synthetic cannabis that do not show up on a urinalysis test.

Funding for drug tests can be expensive, and the money could be better spent on other prevention measures such as educational classes for those students who test positive. Nonetheless, there will always be pros and cons when it comes to drug testing in schools. Studies have been inconclusive and mixed with questions like: Should high school athletes be drug tested? Or the even more controversial question: Should middle school students be drug tested? Most reports show that schools that drug test don't have a lower rate of drug use among the student body. However, there is a link between the reduced prevalence of drug use and drug testing. Reports have also discovered that there is a reduced prevalence of drug use among students who were drug tested.

Do Medical Schools Drug Test?

Medical students who are applying at a number of colleges for medical school should expect a medical school drug test even before they’re accepted, before clinical rotations and even before residency. Drug testing for medical students is done for very good reasons, especially when it comes to human life:

  • Any amount of drug use can cause impairment and lead to more significant risks to patients.
  • Medical students will have access to prescription medications and other chemicals typically found in hospital and university laboratories.
  • Drug testing for medical students is a must because eventually they will become physicians who are tending to and caring for patients in our society. How Effective are Drug Tests in Schools?

Currently, there are no systematic studies that examine the overall effectiveness of drug testing in schools compared to other prevention strategies such as the D.A.R.E. program. However, it’s clear that drug testing can cause of a number of unintended consequences and ramifications for the students who are tested. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the lack of scientific data that supports the effectiveness of RSDT in schools is inconclusive. Therefore the AAP strongly opposes school drug testing.