Pubdate: Sun, 17 Nov 2019
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2019 The New York Times Company
Author: Derrick Bryson Taylor


In an effort to discourage drug use and vaping, a Catholic high school in 
Ohio has announced plans to begin testing its students for drugs and 
nicotine, joining what education professionals are calling a growing trend.

Administrators at Stephen T. Badin High School in Hamilton, Ohio, said in 
a letter to parents this week that the drug-testing program, which they 
said had been shaped over the course of two years with help from the 
Archdiocese of Cincinnati, would go into effect in January.

Students will be tested at least once a year for illicit drugs,
alcohol, nicotine and other banned substances, the school said in the 
letter. There is no maximum number of times a student may be tested.

"The impact of drug use on young students and their families is
staggering and our community is not immune to this issue," the letter 
said, adding that testing would encourage students not to do drugs.

Students are required to consent to the testing as a condition of
their enrollment at the school, and potential consequences for
violating the drug policy include suspension and expulsion, the letter 
said. Under the new guidelines, a first positive drug test alone would not 
necessarily result in disciplinary action, provided there are no other 
violations of the policy, like rules against intoxication during school 
hours or possession of drugs on campus. But a comprehensive intervention 
plan would be put into place after a second positive test, and expulsion 
might be recommended after a third.

Badin High School, which is about 25 miles north of Cincinnati and has a 
coeducational enrollment of 622 students, did not respond to a
request for comment on Wednesday, but a spokeswoman for the
Archdiocese of Cincinnati said in a statement that decisions about
drug-testing policies were made at the local level.

"The individual school administration and board decide if drug testing is 
a policy they want to enact," the spokeswoman, Jennifer Schack, said on 

Private schools have control over their enrollments, David Bloomfield, an 
education law professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, 
said in an interview. "The school seems largely within its rights to come 
up with this policy," he said.

But there may be potential legal concerns if the school is found to
disproportionately test one group of students over another, he noted, 
possibly bringing about "arbitrary enforcement and

"The well-known public school standard for a search is reasonable
suspicion; here it's just suspicion," Professor Bloomfield said. "That 
could be a whim or a hunch, without any real tangible basis."

Marginalized students may be affected most by the policy, he said,
adding, "That could be a legal problem when it's discriminatory

The debate about whether schools can test their pupils for drugs dates 
back to before 2002, the year the United States Supreme Court upheld the 
random drug testing of public school students. The 5-to-4 decision 
expanded an earlier ruling that endorsed drug testing for student 
athletes. The case made national headlines after an Oklahoma school 
district required students who engaged in "competitive"
extracurricular activities - such as the future homemakers' club,
cheerleading and choir - to undergo random drug testing. Justice
Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion that the district's drug-testing 
program was "entirely reasonable" because of the "nationwide epidemic of 
drug use" among school-age children.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study from 2016 said more 
than 37 percent of school districts had adopted a drug-testing policy. 
There seems to be an increase in similar programs across the country, 
Cindy Huang, assistant professor of counseling psychology at Teachers 
College, Columbia University, said in an interview on Thursday.

The research to prove if drug testing is beneficial to students is
mixed, according to the Professor Huang. "There's really no clear
indication that implementing mandatory drug testing will directly lead to 
better and reduced substance abuse rates," she said.

Parents across the country should not be concerned if their school
begins a drug-testing program if it is "properly planned and then
implemented," Professor Huang said. In such cases, she said, it has
the potential to work as prevention.

She added that parents should be asking detailed questions about what 
happens if a child tests positive, whether testing will truly be conducted 
at random and in such a way that does not target specific children, and 
whether there will be programs in addition to drug testing that will 
promote awareness of substance use.
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