Don’t let mandatory drug testing turn Boardman High into prison

Don’t let mandatory drug testing turn Boardman High into prison

There is no denying that sub- stance abuse in our community is a problem, but unless students are, let’s say, stealing copper pipes out of the schools, mandatory drug testing is probably not the best solution to address this narcotic can of worms.

Although bristling with good intention, Boardman schools’ attempt to turn an educational facility into a correctional facility is a misguided venture and a waste of the district’s money.

Grappling with balancing the individual student’s right to privacy versus the school’s responsibility to provide a safe, drug-free school environment is at the core of controversy, but relatively little concern has been given to the effectiveness of drug testing for prevention or cessation, with effectiveness often being assumed.

The purpose of mandatory drug testing is to deter and detect drug use, which is great in theory but flawed in logic. Drug testing’s scope is far too limited to be beneficial.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences conducted an evaluation of 36 drug-testing schools and found that although there was a reported reduction in substance use among students who were subject to testing, there was no effect on students not subject to testing. The thought is helping some is better than none, but the substance abuse most affected referred to alcohol and tobacco use, neither of which is included in the testing of Boardman’s policy.

As with Boardman’s proposal and following the guidelines of Supreme Court ruling, drug tests are used mostly with students involved in extracurricular activities, even though these students groups have the lowest reported drug-use rates. It is a selective program that only reaches a limited group and neglects a large portion of the student body; therefore programs such as this are meant to supplement existing school-based substance-use prevention strategies.

This is why mandatory drug testing in schools is a narrow-minded ploy that looks at the issue through the eyes of criminal justice, not education. The modern approach is to focus on diverse prevention strategies. One such example is the Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative from the Departments of Education, Criminal Justice, and Health and Human Services.

Even if Boardman schools cannot access grants for such a drug-prevention strategy, the evidence shows that they need to be more creative, more collaborative, and put educational anti-drug advocacy before expensive criminal-justice scare tactics.

Cricket Murray, Lowellville