Is Random Drug Testing of Students Legal?
Yes. In 2002 the US Supreme Court (Board of Education of Independent School District #92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls) broadened the authority of public schools to test for illegal drugs for students that choose to participate in extra-curricular activities or co-curricular activities. The Court found such policies as “a reasonably effective means of…preventing, deterring, and detecting drug use.” Participation in extracurricular and co-curricular programs is a privilege and carries with it the responsibility to adhere to high standards of conduct, that include refraining from use of illegal drugs, synthetic drugs, and prescription drugs without a valid prescription.
Why Conduct Random Student Drug Testing?
Random drug testing can serve as a deterrent and give students another reason to resist peer pressure to take and use drugs. Random drug testing can identify students who have started using drugs and that are good targets for early intervention. Using drugs not only interferes with the student’s ability to learn, but it can disrupt the total educational environment, affecting other students as well. A 2010 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found random drug testing for extracurricular activities led to lower drug use among students.
How Effective is Random Student Drug Testing?Establishing the efficacy of Random Student Drug Testing is difficult for a variety of reasons. When research is completed it is important that the variables being studied or tested are equal in nature. However, when we look at RSDT, no two variables are exactly the same. School districts have differing policies in place, as well as how the policy was implemented. This also includes differences in whether the policy is focused more on consequences or intervention, or whether it is a stand alone program, or a program that includes intervention. It is also difficult to compare when schools use different drug testing protocols. Research is also not conclusive on which types of prevention strategies work best, leading to another difference in being able to determine effectiveness.
1530 students in grades 6-12 were surveyed in 2018 for the MO Student Survey. When asked about their substance use in the past 30 days 12.9% admit to using e-cigs (vaping), 13% alcohol, 5.8% marijuana, and 7.7% using a prescription not prescribed to them. Students perception of availability (how easy it is to obtain a substance) was also fairly high (43.3% cigarettes, 54.9% alcohol, 39.6% marijuana, 27.9% prescription drugs not prescribed to them). Alarmingly, many students felt there was no or minimal risk to partaking in use of illegal substances. (E-cigs (vaping) 37.9%, Alcohol 42.6%, Marijuana 33.5%, OTC meds 22.5%, Prescription drugs not prescribed to them 14.1%). 25% of students also felt that it was cool to use marijuana or vapes. In comparing discipline infraction data from the 2016-2017 to 2017-2018 school year, all areas showed an increase. Tobacco usage nearly doubled from 13 to 24, Drug usage went from 6 to 16. To date (March 1) this school year there has been 6 drug, 2 alcohol, 1 tobacco, and 18 vaping infractions. Of the vaping infractions, 11 were unsuccessful in passing a drug test.
Why Not Random Drug Test the Faculty and the Staff?This is not permissible and considered a violation of the 4th Amendment. However, our policies permit staff members to be tested for drugs or alcohol if the district has reasonable suspicion that the faculty or staff member has violated the district Drug-Free Workplace Policy.
Drug testing by a government employer constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment, and, therefore, must be reasonable. Reeves v. Singleton, 994 S.W.2d 586, 591 (Mo.App.W.D. 1999)(citing Ford v. Dowd, 931 F.2d 1286, 1289-90 (8th Cir. 1991). As such, government employers (including school districts) cannot force employees to undergo random drug testing. Instead, the school district must show that it had reasonable suspicion to justify the search.
School districts are permitted to drug test employees where there is reasonable suspicion that the employee was engaging in drug use. This requires more than a “hunch,” but that it is reasonable to conclude, based upon all the information available, that the drug use has occurred. Such searches have been deemed reasonable, and therefore permitted under the Fourth Amendment.
By contrast, drug testing for government employee drivers in transportation is specifically authorized pursuant to federal law (the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991). This law specifically requires random drug testing of drivers, as well as drug testing based on reasonable suspicion and post-accident. This law is specific to transportation employees only and does not authorize the random drug testing of all district employees.
What Substance Abuse Education is Currently Being Provided?Many programs are currently in place for substance abuse education and prevention. Smithville School District has two full time School Resource Officers, behavior specialists and a social worker that work daily with our students. Several venues for counseling through the Children's First Grant including Tri County Mental Health, Synergy as well as others have been established alongside substance abuse therapy and curriculum at all levels. With the assistance of the Drug Free Community Grant (DFC) along with Smithville Community in Action (CIA) new curriculum is being implemented next school year called All Stars. Curriculum is also being reviewed for in school student tobacco cessation programming as well as a free curriculum provided by EVERFI that includes modules on resilience, social and emotional well being, personal health. Several clubs and programs are also in place for promoting a drug/alcohol/tobacco free school community including High School Student Mentor Program, Youth Advisory Council, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Interact, Various Peer to Peer and adult/parent focused prevention social marketing campaigns, Annual Community/Parent Workshops, Drug-Free Sports program, Prevention Conferences for coalition and school personnel (local, state and national), Teacher In-services/Classroom prevention presentations, Handle With Care program (LE and SD communication program to minimize trauma).
What Community Efforts are Currently in Place to Deter Substance Abuse?In addition to the above mentioned programs, Smithville CIA in coordination with law enforcement conducts compliance checks as well as promoting/offering compliance training for alcohol/nicotine retail employees. To date this year, law enforcement has already visited with all the Smithville area retailers, giving them training information and a new state cigarette sales – “Must be 18 or over”, signage. Smithville CIA also works with the business and retailers to help us in promoting our messages in their establishments and to help support our youth activity program.How Will This be Funded?
Until a policy is recommended and approved, funding cannot be fully secured. Several types of grant monies are available for programs such as Random Student Drug Testing.
What Would a Proposed Policy Look Like?
Although current policy is still in draft phase, there are several components that will be a part of the proposed policy. All students who wish to participate in activities at SHS (extracurricular, co-curricular, parking) and parents would need to opt in to the program by a pre-determined and published date. Students who are new to the district will have one week after enrolling to opt in the program should they choose. Parents are also able to opt in their student even if he/she does not participate in activity or park on campus. Students who opt in and then choose to withdraw from testing program will no longer be allowed to park on campus or participate in activities for the remainder of the year. Student and parent would be allowed to re-enter the program the following year should they choose to. Testing will be done randomly on a date chosen by the vendor in coordination with the school. Students will be chosen at random by the testing vendor to participate and will be tested on campus. Should a student refuse to perform testing, will have their parent(s)/guardian(s) notified immediately allowing them to talk to their student allowing them to change their mind. If the student still refuses they will be suspended from all covered activities and/or parking on district property for one calendar year and will forfeit eligibility for all awards and honors given for covered activities from which the student was suspended. The district will utilize a vendor to conduct the random drug testing program. Federal drug testing guidelines will be in place to ensure accuracy and fairness in the drug testing program. Most likely the testing method to be administered will be urinalysis. Appropriate steps will be taken to respect the privacy of students while, at the same time, preventing the falsification of testing. The student will void urine in private within a closed-door stall. Before the student enters the bathroom, the collection technician will have secured the bathroom by taking steps such as removing trash cans, placing dye in the toilet water, taping-off water supplies, etc. Several checks are in place before determining a student has a non-negative test. Once this occurs, student will have a predetermined number of days that they will be deemed ineligible for activities and be unable to park. Student will also be required to participate in substance abuse programming prior to being allowed to resume activity and parking.
Will the Student Face Disciplinary Consequences or Will Law Enforcement be Notified if a Student Tests Positive?
No. The primary reason for drug testing is not to punish students who use drugs but to prevent further drug abuse and to help students live a drug free life. If the student tests positive for drug use, they will be restricted from participating for a period of time in extra-curricular and/or co-curricular activities and referred to seek an effective drug treatment program. This policy will be completely separate from current school policy that refers to illegal substance use or being under the influence while on school grounds. Student information in regards to a non-negative test will be kept at a need to know basis and kept separate from students school records.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Testing in Schools, Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders