In the past, many schools turned to popular programs like D.A.R.E. to prevent drug and alcohol use amongst students. However, researchers have repeatedly shown that D.A.R.E. offers no significant benefits (source). To effectively prevent drug use amongst students, more and more schools are choosing to use random student drug testing. Often modeled after drug-free programs in workplaces, these programs can deter student drug use and give young people a reason to resist peer pressure. In addition, they can help identify students with drug problems who could benefit from intervention and treatment.
Random Student Drug Testing
First, to better understand the history of random student drug testing in the United States, let’s explore two important Supreme Court cases. These decisions upheld the constitutionality of drug testing in public schools and resulted in a rapidly growing number of schools developing and implementing random student drug testing.
Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton (1995)
Vernonia School District 47J required students to submit to random drug testing in order to participate in sports activities. The district tested 10% of all athletes randomly with a urinalysis drug test. In Vernonia School District 47J v. Action, which occurred in 1995, the Supreme Court held that the school’s policy is constitutional under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Board of Education v. Earls (2002)
The Tecumseh, Oklahoma, School District adopted a policy requiring all middle and high school students to consent to urinalysis drug testing to take part in extracurricular activities. Two students, Lindsay Earls and Daniel James, and their families challenged this practice. The Supreme Court decided that the policy is a reasonable means of furthering the school district’s interest in preventing and deterring drug use amongst students and that it does not violate the Fourth Amendment.
The goal of random student drug testing is prevention, not punishment. It seeks to decrease drug use amongst students and help students already using illegal substances become drug-free. For some students who may have otherwise used drugs, the testing can serve as a deterrent. It also provides a clear reason for students to say no when offered drugs and faced with peer pressure. Testing is typically combined with a broader program combining prevention, intervention, and treatment. If a student tests positive, the school may require counseling and follow-up tests. Students diagnosed with addiction will be referred to a drug treatment program.
The effectiveness of random student drug testing is subjective, because it is difficult to establish a baseline for testing. However, the schools we service at Tomo Drug Testing state that with a drug-testing program in place, they see a reduction in drug-related issues at school. They also hear students comment on positive effects of the program. For example, teenagers can use the program as a reason to say “no” when presented with the opportunity to use.
Finally, it is important to note that drug testing should never be used as a stand-alone response to a school’s drug problem. It should always be combined with intervention and treatment programs.
Types of Drug Tests
Most schools use urine-based testing to screen students for drugs. They select students using a random process and collect urine samples to test for drugs like marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, PCP, and opioids. In the last three years, oral fluid (saliva) testing has been growing in popularity as well. Other available testing methods include the sampling of hair and sweat. To determine which type of test to use, schools must consider cost, reliability, drugs detected, detection period, and the process to obtain the sample.
You can start by exploring Prevention Not Punishment’s Checklist for Success: A Manual to Developing a RSDT Program. The guide recommends the following steps to achieve success with random student drug testing:
- Identify the need for drug testing by conducting anonymous student surveys. You should ask about accessibility, usage, and perceptions of drug use.
- Ask major decision-makers within the school district to review the idea and give their approval. Then, present the idea to the community, as you would with any new element to a school’s curriculum. Once the idea is approved, gather a support team.
- Write the drug-testing policy and procedures. This should include four important elements: (1) a statement of need, (2) an introduction or position statement, (3) a discussion of the procedures, and (4) a review of the rights and responsibilities of the school community.
- Implement the program and evaluate its success. You will need to reassess your policy and procedures as time goes by, making improvements and changes as necessary.
If you’re developing a program for random student drug testing, contact Tomo Drug Testing. Based in Springfield, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri, and Indianapolis, Indiana, we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows Tomo Drug Testing to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help.