Horry County Schools May Begin Drug Testing Students

Sitting around the table for family dinner at the end of a long day, you begin the daily decompression, debriefing, checking-in ritual with the kids…

“What did you do at school today?” you ask.

“They made us go to the bathroom in a cup,” your teenaged daughter says.

You cough, almost choking on a piece of chicken… “They what?”

She shrugs. “They made us go to the bathroom in a cup. Drug testing.”

What would your reaction be? What should your child’s reaction be to this kind of invasion of privacy?

These are questions that families in Horry County may soon have to ask themselves once Horry County Schools begins randomly drug testing its students.

Is It Legal to Drug Test Students?

The district does not drug test its teachers because, according to the school board chairman, you can’t just drug-test employees for no apparent reason:

“I would be in favor of it but a random drug testing program of a class of employees is illegal,” he said. “We just can’t say we’re going to drug-test employees for no apparent reason.”

But it’s ok to drug test our children for no apparent reason?

Even though Horry County Schools has had teachers arrested for drug crimes, the district does not even require a pre-employment drug screen for our children’s teachers.

Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings have addressed random drug tests in schools:

  • In 1995, the court ruled that schools could randomly test student athletes; and
  • In 2002, the court expanded that ruling to include students who take part in competitive extracurricular activities – even chess club.

Although this could be interpreted expansively to allow drug testing of every student in every school without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing, I don’t think the Court has addressed such a broad proposal yet. Should we be able to forcibly drug test every child in every school?

Is it ok that we, as a society, consistently provide our children with less constitutional rights than adults enjoy?

Within a few years of the 2002 ruling, about 16 percent of U.S. school districts adopted some form of student drug testing. Was it worth it for those districts?

Is Random Drug Testing of Students Effective?

Proponents of student drug testing say the programs help identify students with possible substance abuse issues and intervene early.

Despite claims that drug testing programs are not meant to be punitive, many students nationwide have been expelled from school after a positive test.

Wouldn’t drug testing of every adult also help identify adults with possible substance abuse issues so that we can intervene early? Why don’t we drug test every adult also?

Hint: Adults have greater constitutional protections than juveniles in the U.S. – we don’t want the government invading and controlling every aspect of our personal lives. But, are we ok with the government doing the same to our children?

The American Civil Liberties Union points out that drug testing students creates barriers to the very activities that education experts say can help them stay away from drugs – extracurricular activities.

As far as research goes, no one has yet done a systematic study to determine the effectiveness of drug testing. As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics opposes student drug testing.

What Can I Do About It?

Speak up. Make your opinions known to the school board. Make a phone call, leave a message, send an email, start a blog, write a letter to the editor of your favorite local newspaper. If you are not ok with the government forcing your child to pee in a cup like a convicted felon on probation, say something.

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