Thought I would see if we could start a "debate" (did I say the dreaded D word?!).
Some schools are proposing mandatory random drug screens on high school kids, without parental consent. Should this be allowed or is it a violation of privacy? Does the school have the right to perform such a test?
As a DINK, I am all for such screening. Unfortunately it has come to this, in my opinion. Parents often push the responsibility of child rearing onto the schools, therefore, schools should be allowed to perform random drug tests at will. If anything, it would not only catch those who are using but act as a deterrent from using.
Oct 21, '02
I can't say I'm in favor of random testing. Right now, especially, giving up yet another civil right seems like precisely the wrong direction to go in, to me.
Now, mandating that students be tested "for cause" or face an automatic suspension, I could possibly agree with as a compromise.
Let's look at this in the short term, though. Do you have any idea how much this would cost? I deal with administrating a random and for-cause employee drug and alcohol program at my job. Point-of-care drug tests cost around $20 EACH. Point-of-care alcohol swab tests cost a little less--maybe $12 apiece.
Along with a drug screening program, you have to have a referral lab for sending confirmation tests. The confirmation tests will run you another $60 bucks or so apiece. This doesn't include the $100/test fee for the MRO. Did I mention you need an MRO? Medical Review Officer, i.e., a physician who is certified to give a definitive review of test results. At our company, when we get a positive test result, it is required that the tester call the MRO so he can question the employee on the spot about any meds he might be taking, preexisting medical conditions etc. which might cause a false positive. The MRO tells you whether there's any need to do a confirmatory test or not.
If you're going to have a testing program, you have to have a very detailed policy and procedure (P&P) in place before you start testing. This includes: defining "probable cause"; defining a precise procedure for notification and testing--if you're doing random, how are the names chosen? How are the students notified and who notifies them? Do they get an hour to report to the school nurse or does a security officer tap them on the shoulder and escort them that minute? Are you going to have "witnessed specimen collection" (another massive invasion of privacy), in which case you will need a male AND female tester, or are you going to turn off the faucets, put dye in the toilets etc. to make the bathroom "tamper-proof" and allow unwitnessed peeing?
If the MRO determines a confirmatory test is needed, can the nurse collect the specs right there and then, or is some doofus going to try to send them to a local lab or ER which was not prenotified and will therefore refuse to do the tests as they do not have a doctor's order (this actually happened last year to my boss's teenage son)?
If you DO have to collect specs and send them off to a lab, you need special chain-of-custody forms to prove that they haven't been tampered with by person(s) unknown at some point. Chain-of-custody forms aren't difficult, but unless you deal with them every day, a lot of folks screw them up. You'll also need a reliable courier service or pickup system like FedEx. More $$. And if you don't send the specs out immediately, you'll need a lock on whatever fridge you're using so that access to them is limited, again to preserve chain of custody.
What happens to students who test positive? Are they suspended? Expelled? Does it depend on which substance they tested positive for? What do you do with students whose results are being sent off for confirmation? Suspend them in the meantime? If students ARE to be expelled based on these tests, how much money is in the school district's budget for the inevitable lawsuits which are sure to result?
And don't forget the lawyer who has to compose all the boilerplate for the P&P and consent forms and review the policy to make sure it's legal and constitutional.
I'm not trying to be a smartass, really. But every point I've brought up has been an issue we've had to deal with while administrating a program of this type. There's a LOT of financial and legal considerations. It's nothing to be gotten into half-way, or you create waaaay more problems than you solve.
Edited to add some bits about chain of custody.
Last edit by Stargazer on Oct 21, '02
Oct 21, '02
Originally posted by Susy K
HEY! Gee, I know Stargazer is way cool and all, but geez, one post from her and you're converted?
What can I say, Susy? It's a gift.
Why is drug testing for high schoolers giving up another civil right, as you say, but drug testing for employees upon hire isn't?
Because you can choose whether or not to work for a company. At least up to a certain age, students don't have any choice about going to school (yeah, yeah, homeschooling/private school blah blah, but not everyone has the financial wherewithal to choose those options).
Last edit by Stargazer on Oct 21, '02