A New Jersey school district has parents up in arms over a new school policy. The school district is recommending random drug and alcohol testing for thousands of high school students.
The proposal to implement the tests at Demarest and Old Tappan high schools was unveiled at a school board meeting earlier this week. The school district outlined the plan to start testing students as soon as next year, hoping that the tests will deter students from using drugs or alcohol.
According to the district, the test results won’t be recorded in the disciplinary records, but students who test positive will face penalties and loss of privileges. Repeat offenders could even be forced to enter counseling.
But parents don’t seem to agree with the proposed policy. Several parents, including GC Vaghasia, were angry that their opinions weren’t included in the decision-making process: “It seems very sudden that such a big policy like this would be coming to a school district such as Northern Valley without the knowledge of parents.”
Other parents argue that the policy is unnecessary and isn’t proven to work. “The data is all over the place,” said Jamie Kopf. “It’s not something that’s conclusively proven to help reduce use of drugs.” And they’re right.
Ask the Research, It’ll Tell Ya
There’s little research to indicate whether random drug and alcohol testing has any effect on high school students. But one 2007 study found that high school athletes who participated in random testing had rates of drug use similar to students who didn’t participate in the program.
But the study didn’t stop there. It also found that many of the athletes showed increased signs of future drug abuse once they began participating in the program. Doesn’t sound very promising, does it?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, adolescent drug use has “dropped significantly” since 2001. A 2007 study found that drug use among eighth, tenth and twelfth graders had decreased by 24%. But don’t be fooled by those numbers. A study conducted in 2012 found that daily use of marijuana increased with 6.5 percent of 12th graders now using marijuana every day, compared to 5.1 percent in the 2007.The same study found that 14.8% of 12th graders abused prescription drugs.
And while alcohol use is at a historical low among high school students, 28.1% of 12th graders admitted to getting drunk at least once in the month prior to the study. So there’s little room to argue that high school students don’t use drugs or alcohol, and that’s not our point.
Random Testing is Not The Solution
According to Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a commissions member of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, “Preventing teen substance use is one of the best opportunities we have to… improve the future prospects for our children.”
Don’t get me wrong – I agree. But random testing is simply not proving to be effective. With that in mind, students might be better served by drug and alcohol awareness programs or seminars that are more proactive. Perhaps we should seek to educate the students about substance abuse in a collaborative effort to reduce drug and alcohol use before it ever begins.
In pursuit of the truth,