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Mandatory Drug Testing of High School Students Wishing to Pursue Extra-Curricular Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 22nd, 2021

In a 2002 landmark ruling, the Supreme Court broadened the use of randBefore drug testing for students participating in sports and extra-curricular activities. Prior to that, the Supreme Court had in 1995 passed a constitutional amendment that legalized the testing of students taking part in extra-curricular activities for drugs, even in the absence of any doubt of drug abuse. Schools were allowed to conduct random tests on the basis that school officials refrained from punishing students who tested positive, and that, drug results were to be made private and confidential (Planas, 2007). Since 2003, the federal government has handled $ 35 million in grants to schools that have embraced random drug testing for students participating in extra-curricular activities. But due to increased cases of drug and substance abuse reported in US schools, the debate has been ongoing over whether drug testing should be made compulsory to students, especially those participating in extra-curricular activities.

Random drug testing is done by analyzing urine samples for traces of heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and other prescription drugs. According to Sadlouskos (2008), “alcohol is not considered for analysis in many schools that are already benefiting from the federal-funded program.”

Those who are in favor of the federal program argue that mandatory drug testing should be introduced as it focuses on the treatment of the students (Planas, 2007). To them, such a program must be encouraged at all costs since it will help the students tackle the drug problem while it is still in its initial stages, thereby saving their lives. Another school of thought argues that requiring students to surrender their urine for analysis as a condition for participating in extra-curricular activities would “deter students from engaging in drugs” (News-Medical, 2008). When students who wish to participate in sports know that their urine will be tested, they will be automatically dissuaded from using drugs.

The above arguments are valid in their rights. But in all due respect, the Supreme Court’s ruling that authorized random drug testing for all senior and junior high school students who wish to participate in extra-curricular activities went a little overboard in curtailing individual freedoms. To many, this federal program goes against the “fourth amendment of the American constitution which is supposed to protect the constitutional freedoms of all American citizens” (Boire, 2002). Embracing mandatory testing of drugs in American schools would therefore be viewed as a replacement of respect and trust with a generalized distrust and an authoritarian mentality that requires students to prove their innocence of drug use at the whims of school administrators. Apart from the program going against the fourth amendment of the American constitution, it is also viewed as an invasion of students’ privacy (Bosher et al., 2004).

Treating American students like suspects in the fight against drug abuse may not necessarily deter the students from taking drugs. The program is capable of doing more harm than good if it is made compulsory. Despite being an invasion of the privacy of students, the program is sometimes inaccurate and expensive (Planas, 2007). It is capable of causing untold psychological suffering and moral corruption to students whose results indicate that they abuse alcohol while they don’t. Available studies reveal that the wrong diagnosis of drug use is capable of introducing the students to drugs. What’s more, the program is quite expensive considering that it has never been able to achieve “tangible results other than the bills that are sent by testing professionals” (Boire, 2002). By last year, the ambitious program had cost the taxpayers a cool $ 35 million in grants.

In all civilizations around the world, students who are active in sports and extra-curricular activities are less likely to abuse drugs. Physicians and psychologists have therefore rallied against this form of thinking, arguing that no “empirical data exists” to show that students athletes are more likely to abuse drugs and other substances than their non-athlete friends (Taylor, 1997). It beats logic to use this category of students as bait to arrest the problem of drug abuse in American schools. It is on this premise that several American judges, including Justices Ginsburg, Souter, and O’Connor have rubbished the random testing program as perverse, unreasonable, and unpredictable (Boire, 2007). When the federal government, through the ruling of the Supreme Court attaches random drug testing to sports and extra-curricular activities, not only does it fail to net the real culprits, but it also ignores many students who might be at the highest risk of abusing drugs but do not engage themselves in extra-curricular activities. There is therefore no justification whatsoever for tying random testing to extra-curricular activities.

Furthermore, this program has dissuaded students from engaging in sports and extra-curricular activities. For instance, students who view the urine test as a gross violation of their privacy will automatically be dissuaded from participating in sports (Bosher et al., 2004). Likewise, students who engage in drugs, and those who decide to miss out on the test for fear of what the test might divulge will automatically be banned from participating in extra-curricular activities (Boire, 2002). A senior researcher with Drug Policy Alliance (New York), Jennifer Kern, is of the view that drug testing in schools will bring undesired effects by deterring students from taking part in extra-curricular activities because such tests can be invasive and humiliating to the students (Sadlouskos, 2008).

According to Boire (2002), deterring students from taking part in extra-curricular activities through drug testing would have a multi-prier effect in that the activities are crucial in the individual development of the youngsters. Extra-curricular activities have been credited for developing well-rounded students if mixed well with educational activities. Some extra-curricular activities are most enriching, educational, and are capable of shaping citizenship in the youngsters. It doesn’t make any sense to bar students from participating in extra-curricular activities on the justification that the students are abusing drugs. When this is done, it denies the students the very activities that help them to prepare for future leadership roles. The policy of enforcing drug testing as a prerequisite for participation in extra-curricular activities is not just bad for the students; it’s terrible for society in general.

It has been a worry for many parents that information about the urine tests may not be kept confidential, not to mention the “fact that the tests are far from being reliable” (Clayton, 2007). This can work backward for the students that the piece of legislation is supposed to protect. Many tests condemn the students as drug abusers while in fact, they are free from drugs. In such instances, the unreliability of the tests may cause “clean” students to start engaging in drugs. Lack of confidentiality is destructive for the individual development of the students, and may increase drug dependency.

It is unacceptable not to protect youngsters from drug use in American learning institutions. Policymakers must not responsibly withhold measures that can effectively curtail the vice. In that respect, screening students can give parents some sense of security (Clayton, 2007). Most learning institutions are starting to regard this policy as a feasible methodology in the fight against drug use. Numerous public schools are now engaging in testing students involved in sporting activities for drug use, while many private schools are performing tests on entire student populations.

This should however not be construed to mean that the justification of the policy is good. Not only has this policy invaded the privacy of students who are comparatively unlikely to abuse drugs, but it has also discouraged students from active participation in extra-curricular activities. The policy may lead to an increase in general drug consumption in American schools (Walters, 2005).

It is therefore time that American policymakers rethink the wisdom of drug testing among high school students and adopt a more effective and realistic policy. The policymakers should bear in mind that some students in high schools will fall prey to drug use before completing high school, just like some students will engage in sex before graduating. It is, therefore, crucial for policymakers to come up with the skills necessary to make the students “endure the drug experimentation period rather than introducing mandatory testing for drug use” (Louria, 2004). Such skills are bound to cause minimal damage to individual students as well as to their parents.

The threat posed by mandatory drug testing backfiring in the face of policymakers and education administrators is quite real and should not be fancied any longer. Notwithstanding the issues of civil liberties, mandatory drug testing for students engaging in extra-curricular activities is a very hazardous policy innovation (Louria, 2004). Caution must be exercised on all fronts as schools implement the random drug-testing policy for students engaging in extra-curricular activities if indeed it has to be implemented. If wrongly implemented, the policy is bound to bring more problems than solutions in the fight against drug use in US public and private schools. Drug testing should not in any way be made mandatory in American schools. It should be mutually consented to and done on an individual basis.

References

  1. Boire, R.G. Dangerous Lesson: Drug Testing in Public Schools. 2002.
  2. Bosher, W.C., Kate, R., Vacca, R.S. The School Law Handbook: What every Leader Needs to Know. ASCD. 2004. ISBN: 978087120841
  3. Clayton, V. Parents, Experts Divided on School Drug Testing. 2007.
  4. Louria, D.B. “Mandatory Drug Testing of High School Athletes.” The American Journal of Bioethics, vol. 1, no. 1, pp 35-36. (2004).
  5. News-Medical.Net. . 2008. Web.
  6. Planas, A. High School Drug Testing Promoted.
  7. Sadlouskos, L. Benards School District Seeks Input as it considers Drug Testing.
  8. Taylor, R. “.” The CATO Journal, vol. 16, no. 3. (1997). Web.
  9. Walters, J.P. What you need to Know about Drug Testing in Schools. Office of National Drug Control policy. 2005.
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