DRUG TESTING IN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS: All for One and One for All?
In recent years many schools in Arkansas have implemented drug testing policies. The majority of these policies have targeted the student athlete.
By Danny Ketcherside
Published: Spring 1998
A school in central Arkansas implemented a new drug testing policy as a result of action taken by the local school board. The new policy has yet to be tested by constituents of the district. Many of the athletes are commenting on the fact that none of the other organizations, or individual students, in the school have to take the test and the athletes think this is unfair.
The school board, as recently as their last meeting, discussed testing everyone associated with the school instead of singling out certain groups. This proposal will include teachers and administrators along with all extracurricular activities! The question has also been asked, if the board is also going to be drug tested? It will be very interesting to see the ramifications of the board’s decision.
And the Survey Says...
Sixty-six members of the student body were surveyed to determine the extent of the drug problem in the high school. A number of the surveys had to be thrown out because they were invalid. They were also asked to write a short paragraph, as well as, answer questions.
Almost half of the students (48%) were in favor of testing everyone in the school instead of testing certain groups (12%) or not testing at all. 20% said that testing would be an invasion of their rights and what they did on their own time was not the school’s business.
Informal parental discussion appears to favor drug testing. Their main concern is awareness of procedures. They also showed concern about why all students were not tested. This could be done in the form of a letter, to the parents, or in a parent meeting without the general public. This meeting should be used to explain all aspects of the testing. Parents said that the more they know, about the testing procedures, the less anxious they are about it.
What if someone in our school were to test positive? If the test were negative, there would be no further action taken. If a student tests positive, he or she is suspended from athletics, for a certain amount of time, parents are notified and counseled, the student pays for another drug test and independent counseling with personal funds. School funds are never used.
Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!
Most of the community was supportive of the program, as were most of the students, athlete and non-athlete alike.
The first group to be tested was the senior high football team. They were not told of this in advance and each classroom was visited by an administrator, who accompanied the students to be tested. By the time the first two classes were tested, everyone knew what was happening! The students appeared to be very excited and relieved because this test had been talked about for many months. No one knew most of the student athletes, grades seven through twelve, had been tested. To our knowledge, no one has tested positive. However, these tests are supposed to be confidential. It has had no negative impact on our athletic programs. No one has heard any objectionable comments from school patrons.
And the Court Says...
In 1995 the Supreme Court ruled that drug testing student athletes was legal. The case name was Veronia School District vs. Acton. An official investigation led to the discovery that the high school athletes of Veronia School District participated in the use of illegal drugs. School officials were concerned that drug use increased the risk of sports related injury. The school district adopted a student athlete drug testing policy which authorized random urinalysis drug testing of its student athletes. James Acton, a student, was denied participation in his high school football program when he and his parents refused to consent to the testing.
The constitutional question was: “Does random drug testing of high school athletes violate the reasonable search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment?” The conclusion by the court was that it did not violate these rights. In the case of high school athletes, under the state’s supervision, during school hours, they are subject to greater control than other free adults. The privacy interests comprised by urine samples are negligible since the conditions of collection are similar to public restrooms, and the results are viewed by limited authorities. The court also stated that governmental concern over the safety of minors, under their supervision, overrides intrusion of the student-
This case answers the question about drug testing student-athletes, but the question of testing the total school population is still open to the court.
More and more schools, in Arkansas, have been going to the drug testing program, not only to test athletes, but to test total school population.
The teachers have developed a growing concern about drug testing and infringement on teachers’ rights for privacy. After the student survey went out, the Personnel Policy Committee sent out their own survey to the teachers. Now we will have a chance to see how teachers will react to the possibility of being tested. Let’s see if they can behave as well as their students.