Middle School Drug Testing

Back to October 2012 Ed Reporter

Middle School Drug Testing

A Pennsylvania family wondered why their middle school daughter had to take a drug test in order to join the scrapbooking club or play junior varsity volleyball, so they are suing Delaware Valley Middle School to protect her right to privacy. (M.K. v. the Delaware Valley School District).

In Missouri, before implementing a drug-testing program that pulls thousands of dollars directly from the school’s general operating budget, Maryville R-II School District officials spent 18 months reviewing state drug testing programs and conducting a survey of parents, in which 72% agreed that drug testing was necessary. The resulting policy states, “Because it is concerned about the health and safety of students, the Board directs the superintendent or designee to implement a drug-testing program where students in grades 7-12 are required, as a condition of participating in certain extracurricular activities, to consent to random drug screening.”

States participating in middle school drug testing include Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. Because California has strict privacy laws, the ACLU won a settlement there in 2011 halting drug testing for nonathletic students unless there are grounds for suspicion of drug use.

Why are middle schools testing students who want to join choir, drama, and scrapbooking clubs? School officials cite both their desire to catch students using drugs and their hope to deter students from using drugs. Schools share results with parents and students, but rarely with law enforcement. No middle schooler has tested positive for any performance-enhancing drug but a few have tested positive for marijuana. “Such drug testing at the middle school level is confounding students and stirring objections from parents and proponents of civil liberties,” according to The New York Times.

Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of the Division of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University, says, “Drug testing is a multi-billion dollar industry.” He goes on to say, “Drug testing has never been shown to have a deterrent effect.”

Outside companies under contract with schools conduct the testing and send results to a laboratory. In 2003 the Department of Education began a program, which will phase out this fall, offering grant money to pay for drug testing in grades 6-12.

The Kiederer family in PA has won an injunction allowing their daughter to join the scrapbooking club and to play volleyball without drug testing as their case moves forward. New York Times, 9-22-12