Schools across the country continue to debate the usefulness of mandatory drug testing policies, according to a recent USA Today article.
Just last month, a federal judge changed the legal landscape when it comes to mandatory drug testing in schools when he ruled that Linn State Technical College’s mandatory drug testing policy, when applied to most students, is unconstitutional.
Officials at the Missouri college said that the school put the mandatory drug testing program in place at the behest of community businesses that were likely to hire the school’s students. The school’s drug policy stated that if a student’s drug test came back positive, that student would meet with a counselor and could participate in an online substance abuse program. The student would then be required to take a second scheduled test and a third random test. If both subsequent tests were negative, the student could continue to be enrolled at the school and all test results would be destroyed at the end of the semester.
The lawsuit opposing the mandatory drug testing was brought forward by the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.
“Linn State required every incoming student to be tested for drugs, even though many of them would not be engaged in dangerous activities and the college had no reason to believe any particular student was using drugs,” said Jason Williamson, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project at the time the judge had ruled the policy to be unconstitutional. He was also co-counsel on the case.
Addiction experts applauded the ruling, as it helps switch the focus from disciplining students, to actually helping them with the problem of potential addiction.
“Many schools continue to frame substance use by college students as an enforcement problem and therefore turn to policies such as drug testing as the solution,” said Susan Foster, Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. “The problem with this approach is that substance use and addiction are public health and medical issues. Enforcement strategies alone are unlikely to solve health problems.”
Colleges across the country are concerned about the increasing popularity of the drug Molly, the USA Today article notes. “There has always been fashion to drugs of the day … Chasing the problem one drug at a time is a costly game of whack-a-mole where use of one drug is addressed only to see the problem pop up in a different form,” Foster noted.
Molly is another name for MDMA, which is the powder that ecstasy pills are created from. It has recently been featured in pop songs that glorify its use.
A recent national survey of high school students found random drug testing in schools does not reduce students’ substance use. The study found students who attend schools where they feel treated with respect are less likely to start smoking cigarettes or marijuana.