There are few topics more contentious than the question of whether students should be drug-tested. The debate raises questions about human rights, civil liberties, and the state’s role in regulating children’s behavior. Is drug testing a good way to prevent teenage substance abuse at a young age? Or is it an unnecessary intrusion into young people’s lives? Join us as we take a look at this controversial topic.
In recent years, schools across the country have been putting much pressure on students — especially high schoolers — to be drug-free. But should drug testing for middle school students be mandatory? This has been debated repeatedly, but there does not seem to be a right or wrong answer. Instead of considering all the perspectives and genuinely approaching the issue as objectively as possible, nearly everyone seems to have already made up their mind.
Recently, a debate has been stirred up over a proposal to drug test middle schoolers. While some parents and teachers approve of the idea, others have criticized it as a violation of privacy. What do you think? Are there other ways to curb substance abuse in schools?
Should Middle School Students Be Drug Tested?
- The History of Teen Drug Addiction and Drug Testing
Adolescents who use drugs are more likely to develop an addiction than adults. The majority of new drug users are under the age of 18. The most important factor in adolescent drug usage is experimentation. However, experimenting is a natural part of life, and just because a kid has tried drugs or alcohol does not imply that they will become addicted.
The first formal drug testing in the United States took place in New York in the early 1930s. Shortly after the New York lab opened, several of its employees were recruited to build a second drug testing facility in the United States, located in Florida.
The “War on Drugs” of the 1990s helped raise awareness and create strategies for dealing with substance use. Many companies started requiring drug testing for new hires and randomized drug testing for current employees. Random Student Drug Testing (RSDT), which compels kids in sports teams or school groups to be drug tested at school, sprang from these practices.
Drug testing is a technique to detect the presence or absence of a drug or its metabolites using a biological sample. This procedure can be carried out in several locations and using a variety of methods. Since different drugs metabolize at different rates, the period for detecting certain substances or metabolites may be extremely specific.
- Why Are Students Being Tested?
Addiction is a mental disorder that compels someone to repeatedly use substances or engage in risky behaviors despite harmful outcomes.
Based on the 2020 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, from 2017 to 2019, the number of teens who vaped nicotine in the previous 12 months nearly doubled. This meant an increase from 7.5% to 16.5% for eighth-graders, 15.8% to 30.7% for tenth-graders, and 18.8% to 35.3% for twelfth-graders. In 2020, the rates remained constant at 16.6%, 30.7%, and 34.5%, respectively.
In addition, daily marijuana smoking among tenth-graders fell from 3% in 2019 to 1.7% in 2020. In contrast to twelfth-graders, who reported an all-time low usage of inhalants, the previous 12-month use of inhalants among eighth-graders climbed from 3.8% in 2016 to 6.1% in 2020 — a 64% proportionate rise.
- How Are Students Tested?
To check children for drugs, most schools utilize urine-based testing. They randomly choose students and take urine samples to test for the most common teen abused substances like marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, phencyclidine, and opioids.
Likewise, oral fluid or saliva testing has also grown in popularity during the past few years. Typically, urine or hair samples are collected to test for amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, PCP, opioids, both heroin and prescription pain relievers. Schools and the government need the parents’ consent to test students. Schools must also evaluate cost, reliability, substances found, detection time, and sample collection procedure when deciding which test to employ.
- Why Do Middle Schoolers Need Drug Tests?
A six-year study of New Jersey adolescents shows that random drug testing of middle-schoolers may help avoid substance misuse. According to lead researcher Dan Cassino, when middle-school children are tested for drugs, they start to realize that using drugs may land them in trouble. He observed that using random drug testing could prevent drug abuse, although it would be costly.
- Are Drug Tests A Good Way To Keep Kids Off Drugs?
According to the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, random drug testing in schools has been beneficial in decreasing drug usage and, more significantly, deters substance use among teenagers. Drug testing reduced cigarette smoking among 13-year-olds from 35.9% to 24.4%, alcohol usage from 39.9% to 30%, and cannabis use from 18.5% to 11.8%.
In addition, teenagers who were randomly tested for drugs were less likely to use them again later in life. This is in parallel with the results of Newsworks, where researchers discovered that drug usage among kids in grades six to eight is uncommon.
Drug testing may also be used to detect a potential substance addiction problem in students or employees, allowing them to get the treatment they need to achieve sobriety. Early detection of addiction always works best when followed by proper treatment and approaches.
What are the pros and cons of mandatory drug testing?
Drug testing in middle schools is a controversial topic. Some people believe that it is an excellent way to keep drugs out of schools, while others believe it violates students’ rights. Drug testing allows for early detection and intervention of teen drug use, thus increasing students’ chances of staying sober.
Here is the other side of the coin. Random testing can undermine the connection between the students and educational institutions. Some drug tests can be defective — causing false negatives or false positives — seldom dispensing anxiety. Unfortunately, these issues put many kids in danger of being suspended or expelled.
If the students taking the drug tests were in high school, educators could more clearly observe the enormous reduction in test results and test anxiety. Parents want to safeguard their hard-earned money and also want their children to succeed, so it makes sense to put them to the test. If a child is discovered using drugs, their parents will be more likely to find treatment for them.
On the other hand, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a statement of belief versus random drug testing of kids because there is inadequate evidence to confirm its benefits. They argued that drug testing middle schoolers could damage students’ relations and institutions. According to the organization, it violates the privacy of the students. AAP also added that there is minimal evidence to suggest that drug testing programs deter children from taking drugs.
Would Drug Testing Reduce Drug Use Among Teenagers?
- Drug Tests Don’t Deter Drug Use, But School Environment Might
According to a poll, the prospect of drug testing did not deter high school students from using alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana. Students who felt that their school had a positive environment, on the other hand, were less likely to experiment with smoking and marijuana.
- Supreme court cases on drug testing in schools
The case of Vernonia v. Acton is the legal underpinning for student drug testing in 1995. In that historical case, the Supreme Court asserted the validity of a school system asking student-athletes to undergo random urine examinations in order to participate in extracurricular activities or interscholastic events. Consecutively, the Court dismissed the Fourth Amendment allegation that such testing constituted an unlawful invasion of privacy. This ruling allowed other educational institutions to perform similar procedures.However, two groups of high school parents filed a lawsuit against a school district’s baseless drug testing policy for children who participate in extracurricular sporting activities. Following the filing of the case, the school district decided to discontinue its practice, thus dismissing the parents’ request for a preliminary injunction. Even though the lawsuit was dismissed as moot, the Court of Appeals determined that random drug testing of student-athletes does not infringe on any obvious legal or equitable right of students.
School drug testing arose as a result of the so-called War on Drugs. Students in thousands of individual schools are affected, and additional districts have expressed interest in implementing testing. The practice is now constitutional, according to the United States Supreme Court.
- Do reasonable suspicion, or random drug tests violate students’ rights?
Any student can voice their dissatisfaction with drug testing. A reasonable suspicion that a teen is taking drugs is typically required for a school to establish a drug-testing program. Unless they are an athlete, the idea that some kids may be taking drugs may not be enough to warrant a drug test at a public school. There are specific considerations like your state’s law. You or your teen may have the freedom to legally question drug testing in your institution.
- How much should schools spend on drug-testing programs, and what would that money be better spent on?
These drug testing programs are undeniably costly. They cost thousands of dollars and consume a lot of time and effort, leading to other issues. Instead, schools may opt to use their resources on activities that are proven to prevent drug abuse or addiction. For instance, a large body of research suggests that extracurricular activities decrease the chance of substance abuse among teens.
Campaigns for mandatory drug testing of students have been implemented with different degrees of strictness in many countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United States. The use of drugs by children is a problem that affects all levels of society, including the younger generation. While it is not always clear what the best approach to solving this problem is, we must ensure that the next generation is healthy and safe.
It is worth noting that high school athletes are tested differently than middle school pupils. Drug testing is simply another method of assisting those who require it. It might make kids think twice about using drugs and, when combined with a drug education program, can be a tool that schools may employ to overcome student drug misuse. So now, what are your thoughts on school-based drug testing programs? Do you consider preventative measures to make sense? Don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about prevention and support a teenager in need.