Code 420: High School Drug Testing
April 20, 2017
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With a certain date in April that starts with a 2 and ends with a 0 nearing close, the idea of random drug tests being conducted on students can be a hot topic in the halls of a high school. While currently less than 5% of high schools in the U.S. perform random drug tests on their students, the federal government has recently ramped up its campaign to encourage schools to implement drug testing regimes and even offers grants to fund them. Meanwhile, representatives from drug testing companies are increasingly arranging presentations in front of local school boards to promote their products. As a result, some schools require students to submit to drug testing if they want to participate in any extracurricular activity.
The concern of invasiveness and student’s rights arises with the subject of school-facilitated drug tests, as forcing a student to urinate into a cup while a school official listens outside the stall undermines civics lessons on the Fourth Amendment. “I’d feel like my rights and privacy were being violated,” says Sophomore Zach Lewis. Freshman Ruby Roebuck goes as far to say “I would switch schools if we were forced to be drug tested.” Washington State Law 392-400-215 on Student’s Rights states that “All students possess the constitutional right to be secure in their persons, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” a mandatory school-wide drug test conducted by administration not only violates student rights, but hinders the emotional wellbeing of students. Sophomore Lola Rumsey says “Being forced to pee in a cup for the school and police would give me major anxiety, even if I knew I would pass.”
However, maybe a school-implemented drug test would reduce the percentage of students using drugs… or maybe not. Sophomore Lucy Ryan says the idea seems ineffective. “People are going to do what they’re going to do; regardless of what the school says about it. If someone wants to show up to class high, that’s their choice and the rest of us shouldn’t have to deal with the consequences.” Roebuck says, “It’s just not the school’s business or job to police our bodies. It’s the parent’s job to set boundaries for their kids.” We’ve all seen the Thurston Together survey statistics in the hall saying 89% of OHS students don’t use marijuana, or 83% don’t feeling left out of social drinking, but what are the real numbers? Rumsey says “I think it’s more 50/50,” while Ryan says “I think it’s close but leans toward sobriety.” Principal Matt Grant says he believes the statistics to be accurate. “It surprised me how many people were actually angry about those posters. I think when it’s believed that ‘everyone is doing it’ it’s easy to not feel bad about it. But when presented with the possibility that not everyone is doing it, that guilt can lead to anger.”
So, will Olympia High School be requesting you urinate in a cup to search for a trace of the devil’s lettuce this April? Principal Matt Grant says, “Our social services and school policeman have authority to conduct a breathalyzer test, but if we have no legitimate reason to drug test a student, we don’t. You can’t repair the damage to a relationship with a student after a false accusation. I’ve never been one for accusations and violation of privacy, so if we’re not sure we’re doing the right thing, we aren’t.” However, this doesn’t mean the school will hesitate to take action against a student under the influence during school. “When it comes to search and seizure, we have more authority than the police,” says Grant. “Regardless, I can usually tell when a kid is drunk or stoned within the first five seconds of speaking to them.”
Olympia High School as of this year has implemented a new discipline program called Restorative justice. On a student’s first drug or alcohol related offence, they have a choice between a 15 day suspension or a rehabilitative class and assessment at the school. Second offence is a 30 day suspension, and a third offence is expulsion. “I think Restorative Justice has been extremely effective,” says Grant. “We went from 235 expulsions last year to just 31 this year. The tough kids we’ve dealt with the most are still the same punks they’ve always been, but we’ve had a lot of success with the new program.” As for a school-wide drug test, it doesn’t seem to be a consideration outside of the athletics department.