Random Drug Testing in Schools: Necessary or Over the Line?

A drug test, accompanied by a background check, is a standard aspect of pre-employment screening; after all, an employer has the right to know whether or not an individual is consistently reliable and ready to work. But should the same type of procedure be in schools? An article published recently in the Kansas City Star discusses the pros and cons of student drug testing. On one hand, it keeps most students from doing drugs and drinking during the school year (the three months of summer vacation is another matter), but, on the other, school districts spend a large amount of money on it and some parents want their high school students to be treated like adults.

25 percent of school districts in Missouri have drug testing policies, and although no particular incident sparked changing policies, the reasoning behind most can be summarized by the following statement:

“We felt that our athletes and kids participating in extracurriculars were needing something more than ‘Just Say No,’ which doesn’t seem to be effective anymore,” said Bob Glasgow, Raytown activities director, who played a role in putting the program in place in the Oak Grove district.

Did “Just Say No” or D.A.R.E. ever work? Either way, school districts are paying $25,000 each for drug testing. Students in such school districts, if being tested, are pulled aside for about 15 minutes and give a testing service a sample. If a student tests positive, he or she, depending upon school district, is banned from extracurricular activities or is required to take drug and alcohol counseling classes. According to the Kansas City Star article, only about 15 students are tested per month.

Parents, however, think such policies violate their children’s confidentiality and treat their teens like, honestly, children. At the same time, as most adults – child-free or not – can attest, drug testing is part of being an adult, specifically of employment. If a 16-year-old cannot pass a drug screening, how can he or she function in the adult world?