Mandatory Random Drug Testing in High Schools

  1. Ok everyone....

    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.

    Thoughts?
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  2. 126 Comments

  3. by   LasVegasRN
    Wow, this is a hard one for me. Okay, let me put on my Mommy hat. Would I want Emma randomly tested for drugs in high school? Hmm. Gosh, I really don't know. This is hard for me - only because having been in high school myself and doing some stupid things which only served to build upon the person I am today, I can't say!!

    Will it force parents to take notice and responsibility? Yes!

    Will it stop potential abuse behavior in a high risk population? Yes!

    Yet, I keep going back to when I was in high school and how much I would have felt my personal rights were being violated. Then again, at high school age, I didn't really have any rights yet (as far as being an adult).

    Gotta think more on this, I'm split.
  4. by   Q.
    Originally posted by LasVegasRN

    Yet, I keep going back to when I was in high school and how much I would have felt my personal rights were being violated. Then again, at high school age, I didn't really have any rights yet (as far as being an adult).

    That's an interesting point. How much rights DO high school kids have? More than, less than adults? If so, do those rights then pertain to just 18 year olds and not the 14 year old freshman?
  5. by   LasVegasRN
    I can safely say that I'm glad I didn't have any rights at that age. My parents issued my rights as they saw fit. Problem is, we have a whole generation of high schoolers who don't have responsible parents. Remember - Babies having Babies? Those "babies" are in high school now. At the risk of sounding snobby, that very thought frightens me.
  6. by   Stargazer
    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
  7. by   LasVegasRN
    Okay, cool. Totally impractical idea. I say nay to high school drug testing.
  8. by   Sleepyeyes
    Guess I hafta agree.

    But you know what I'd like to see? online high school credits. I hated going to school; I would've done great if I could've done it all online.
  9. by   Q.
    HEY! Gee, I know Stargazer is way cool and all, but geez, one post from her and you're converted? Don't forget, she DID say:

    I'm not trying to be a smartass, really.


    Yes, ya are.

    Let's assume there is a process in place and all those variables you mention are accounted for. Why is drug testing for high schoolers giving up another civil right, as you say, but drug testing for employees upon hire isn't? Sure, you need to be drug-free to work in your chosen area, and that is outlined prior to your employment. Well hell, why can't that be so in HIGH SCHOOL? Shouldn't you be drug free there as well?
  10. by   Sleepyeyes
    Well, heck, if that's the case, why not mandatory pregnancy and STD testing?

    I mean, geeeeeeeezzz....

    a person can legally quit school by the time they're about 15 or 16, can be schooled at home if the parents want, what is all this that i have to give my parental rights up when i send my kid out the door to every tom, dick and harry institution who wants to butt into my childrearing practices?
  11. by   kaycee
    Some schools in my area already do it with any student participating in sports and are still having discussions about testing kids involved in other activities like, band, orchestra, clubs ect. The parents are required to pay for the test. I don't know what happens if the parent refuses or doesn't have the funds. The tests are $22.00. This is what I've read in my local paper. They have not institued drug testing in my son's school. I have no problem with drug testing. I believe it may deter use and possible get help for those who already do. I do however agree with Stargazer as far as it has to have all the kinks worked out to be effective. We just had a 16yo in my son's class OD and die from Heroin. Would random drug testing have prevented it , hard to say. Her parents knew and she had just gotten her out of rehab. Upper middle class family, yes drugs are everywhere.Very sad situation. Another question is, should all kids be tested or just those involved in sports or other school activities. To me that in itself is discrimatory and I'm not saying that kids that are active in school don't use drugs, but I think the ones who don't particapate in any activities may be more likely to.
    Interesting thread Susy, I look forward to some intelligent discussion.
  12. by   WashYaHands
    I dont know that I would approve of blanket random drug screens, but if a kid were exhibiting behavior congruent with drug/alcohol use, I think it is warranted. I work at a co-ed boarding school for grades 9-12, and I occassionally perform tox screens for students who are suspected of using drugs/alcohol. My first response is to rule out any medical condition that would cause the student to exhibit like behavior.

    There are things to consider if schools want to implement blanket random drug testing. One is cost, who will pay for the screen the parent or the school? Second, legally, you have to maintain a chain of custody of the specimen protecting it from any possible outside manipulation (ie. kids switching clean urine for their friend) until it gets to the lab. Third, any kiddo on Ritilin, Concerta, or Adderall is most likely going to come up positive for amphetamines. And, most labs have increased the threshold for Opiates because people who had eaten poppy seeds were coming up positive.

    One other thing I'd like to say is that last year in an effort to cut lab costs, I ordered some drug test devices similar to a home pregnancy test. Every kid that I tested was coming up positive for Cocaine, which I thought was either strange or we had a major on campus drug problem. So, I peed myself and I too came up positive for Cocaine. Now, I dont use cocaine or any other drug for that matter and I'm not on any prescription meds, so that was proof enough for me that these tests were producing false positives. Fortunately, I figured this out before I provided any results to parents or school admin., but could you imagine what the legal consequences might have been had I not tested myself and found the drug test method to be bogus?

    Linda
  13. by   Stargazer
    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
  14. by   Q.
    So because kids are "forced" to go to school in our society (what a harsh requirement), "forcing" them into drug tests to ensure a safe and drug free educational environment is just too much to ask?

    As a taxpayer for public schooling though I don't even HAVE children, I feel that it is MY right to enforce a drug free environment.

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