07 Jul Cleveland Schools Announce Mandatory Drug Testing
In April 2014, three high schools in Cleveland, Ohio, announced that they would begin mandatory drug testing in the fall. The schools, which range in size from 340 to 1,500 students, plan to collect hair samples in order to perform the drug tests.
The three schools that announced drug-testing programs were Gilmour Academy, St. Edward High School and St. Ignatius High School. These schools announced the mandatory drug tests to students during school assemblies, and to the parents of their students through mass e-mails.
By announcing the programs toward the end of the 2013-2014 school year, these high schools intend to give students who currently engage in drug use plenty of time to get clean and clear their bodies of any traces of drugs that might show up in a test. (Drugs can be detected in hair samples for up to three months after someone has stopped using.)
Other Programs in the U.S.
Cleveland is not the only city to give mandatory drug testing a try. In 2012, Toledo, Ohio, saw mandatory drug testing of students and staff begin at St. John’s Jesuit High School and Academy. Schools in Florida, Nebraska, Tennessee, Kansas and Illinois have also announced or begun drug-testing programs.
The drug-testing effort has its critics. Programs in Tennessee and Kansas turned up positive tests in just over 1 percent of the students. While proponents say that this low number is evidence that the programs are strong deterrents, critics argue that they are not effective at finding drug users among high school students.
Heroin-Related Deaths Drive Testing
In the e-mails the three Cleveland schools sent to parents, school administrators pointed to heroin-related deaths in the community as a major impetus behind the drug-testing programs. The letter from St. Ignatius High School stated that heroin is responsible for more deaths each year in Cuyahoga County than car accidents or homicides.
Information from school officials also emphasizes that the mandatory drug testing is not intended to punish students who may have experimented with drugs but rather to prevent them from trying drugs in the first place. Another goal of the programs is to identity youths who may have developed an addiction problem that needs treatment.
The three high schools have also reassured parents and students that the results of the drug tests will not be handed over to law enforcement except under certain circumstances. Therefore, students with positive tests will only face penalties from the schools themselves rather than possible criminal charges. However, the schools do say that in situations where the safety of other students is at risk, or in the case of a subpoena or court order, drug-test results may have to be submitted to law enforcement.
Response From Students and Parents
News sources in the Cleveland area report that the reactions from parents and students have been largely positive following the mandatory testing announcement. At least one parent did question why positive tests cannot be confirmed by a third-party organization rather than being re-tested by the same company. Another parent questioned why the decision was not announced early enough in the year for parents to enroll their child or children in an alternate school if they disliked the mandatory testing policy.
Psychemedics Corporation to Perform Tests
The Psychemedics Corporation will perform the drug analyses of the hair samples collected by the schools. The Ohio Plain Dealer revealed that the president of St. Edward’s High School, James Kubacki, is the brother of the head of the Psychemedics Corp., Raymond Kubacki. However, St. Edward’s released a statement saying that the relationship does not constitute a conflict of interest. Furthermore, the school said that the board of directors was aware of the connection when it made the selection but felt that Psychemedics was the most qualified firm to perform the testing.
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