Home » An Objection to Mandatory Drug Testing in High Schools

An Objection to Mandatory Drug Testing in High Schools

With the recent steroid a scandal in Major League Baseball, debates over mandatory drug testing polices have sparked interest across the country. One issue that is highly controversial, but has taken a back seat in the in the debate, is the issue of mandatory drug testing policies in high schools.

With teenage drug use on the rise in the 90s the federal government and the United States Supreme Court gave the green light to mandatory drug testing policies for student athletes and participants of extra-curricular activities. In this paper I hope to prove that mandatory drug testing of student athletes and participants of extra-curricular at the high school level is a well-meaning but wrong-headed approach to teen drug prevention.

Although mandatory drug testing is necessary at the collegiate and professional levels of competition in order to ensure a level playing field among athletes, to preserve the credibility and integrity of the particular sport, and to prevent and protect athletes from drug abuse, mandatory drug testing should be removed at the high school level because mandatory drug testing can have a negative effect on the classroom or team, is a waste of valuable school financial resources, may be a potential barrier to joining extra-curricular activities because drug testing is typically aimed at students who want to participate in those activities, drug tests being used by high schools have been known to give false positives, which could punish innocent students, and may cause several unintended consequences such as: students turning to more dangerous drugs that are not detectable by the tests currently being used, students out smarting the tests, and students learning that they are assumed guilty until they are proven innocent.

Definitions Anabolic steroids are, synthetic substances related to male sex hormones (androgens). They promote growth of skeletal muscle (anabolic effect) and the development of male sexual characteristics (androgenic effects). Users of anabolic steroids run the risk of stunted bone growth, permanent damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, and a known seventy other major physical and psychological side effects. Currently, anabolic steroids are only legal in the United States by doctor prescription.

Doctors use these steroids to treat patients who have developed certain conditions that force the body to produce low amounts of testosterone, such as delay puberty and some types of impotence, and also to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases. Finally, anabolic steroids are different from steroidal supplements sold over the counter in the United States, such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione (known as Andro). Users buy theses supplements through commercial sources including health food stores, because they believe the supplements have anabolic effects. This supplement was made popular during Mark McGwires record setting home run season and the controversy surround his admittance of using the supplement.

Currently, there are three common drug-testing methods employed by the public school system, they include urinalysis test, hair follicle test, and the use of a sweat patch test. The urinalysis test is the most common test used in high schools, primarily because of its low cost per a test, usually ranging from $10 to $30 per test, however with the relative low cost comes several problems. The first is a urinalysis test cannot detect alcohol or tobacco uses, both are illegal at the high school age. Secondly, by using a urinalysis test a specimen has a possibility of being adulterated. Finally, the urinalysis test is the most invasive of all drug tests because someone must be present when the specimen is collected.

The second method of drug testing used by high schools is the hair follicle test. The hair follicle test is the mot expensive test used by high schools at a cost of $60 to $75 per test. The test is limited to the five basic drug panel, which include marijuana, cocaine, opiate, amphetamines, and PCP. The test cannot detect alcohol use or recent drug use. Even though the hair follicle test is look at to be one of the more reliable drug tests, it does have its share problems. The test tends to be discriminatory: dark haired people are more likely to test positive than blondes, and African-Americans are more likely to test positive than Caucasians.

In addition, exposure to drugs in the environment may lead to false positives, especially if those drugs are smoked. Finally, the third method of drug testing used by high schools is the sweat patch test. The sweat patch test is also relatively cheap at $20 to $30 per test. The sweat patch test is able to detect the most drugs of out of the three tests, but the test is plagued with several problems. First, very few labs in this country are able to process the results, which causes an inconvenience to school districts. Secondly, passive exposure to drugs could result in false positives, due to contamination of the patch. Finally, any individual with excessive body hair, scrapes or cuts, and skin eruptions cannot wear the patch.

New drug testing techniques are being developed to be more accurate and less invasive. One of theses new techniques is the saliva test. This test is said to be almost unbeatable because it uses a persons DNA. However, this test opens up new doors of controversy, because it looks deep into ones past creating privacy issues and could open the door for employers to genetically test for certain types of employees. Monitoring the Future is an ongoing study conducted by the institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, which surveys the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults. The study first began in 1975, when about 50,000 12th graders were surveyed.

In 1991, 8th and 1oth graders were added to the survey. In addition to the survey, follow up questionnaires are mailed to a sample of each graduating class for a number of years after the initial survey. History of the Issue In order to understand the mandatory drug testing issue completely, it is essential that we examine the background and history of events contributing to the establishment of mandatory drug testing of student athletes and participates of extra-curricular activities in high schools. The testing of student athletes and extra-curricular participates did not begin just recently. However: until recently, the debate of drug testing effectiveness was minimal. Impact of the 60s

In the mid 1960s with the coming of age of the Baby Boom generation and counter-culture revolution brought narcotics into the mainstream of Americas culture. By the late 1960s middle-class youths and soldiers serving in Vietnam spurred on by popular music, had embraced certain drugs like marijuana, hallucinogens, and several others. In 1968, President Nixon was elected president on a law-and-order platform that emphasized a crack down on drug use. That same year mandatory drug testing was instituted by the military, because of a growing number of drug addicted Vietnam vets returning home. War on Drugs In 1970, Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act.

This act significantly lessened penalties for possession of many drugs. A year later, President Nixon declared the first war on drugs. In 1975, the University of Michigans Institute of Social Research conducted the first of its series of Monitoring the Future studies on student drug use. In 1977, President Carter called for the decriminalization of marijuana, but later he drops the idea. In 1979, drug use peaks and an anti-drug movement began, led mostly by parents. Just Say No The 1980s brought about many changes in the drug policy of the United States. The drug cocaine was gaining popularity, especially among young, white, urban, professionals. In 1982, President Reagan declared a second war on drugs.

In July of 1985, an Arkansas court ruled that the excessive intrusive nature of drug testing student athletes without reasonable suspicion is not justified by its need. On June 19, 1986, University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose, his death prompted almost immediate change, when it came to drug testing. A few months after Biass death, President Reagan and the first lady launched the national Just say no anti-drug campaign. President Reagan also issued Executive Order 12564, calling for a drug free workplace in all federal agencies. In addition, in a symbolic gesture he and his senior advisors provide urine samples to be tested for illegal drugs.

Congressed followed suit and passed into law the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, which provide schools with funds to start anti-drug programs. The President signed the law on Oct. 27, 1986. States across the country also began to pass their own Drug Free School Zone laws. That same year, Biass death prompted the NCAA to approve mandatory drug testing for all its athletes. The late 80s brought on a continued focus on illegal drug use. In 1988, President Bush established the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. November 1988, Congress passed the Drug Free Work Place Act, which required all federal contractors or grant recipients to maintain drug free work places. This prompted many employers begin to set voluntary testing programs.

This also leads to lawsuits brought by employees, claiming drug testing is a violation of individual privacy rights. The courts responded and allowed suspicion less drug testing. In 1989, President Bush unveils his National Drug Control Strategy, which encouraged drug for workplace policies in the private sector and in state and local government. That same year the Supreme Court upholds random drug testing when a special need outweighs individual privacy rights, in the National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab decision. Roller Coaster 90s The 1990s began with teen drug at an all time low and the expansion of drug testing policies. President Bush expanded the federal drug-testing program to include all White House personnel.

In 1991, Congress passes the Omnibus Transportation and Employment Testing Act, which mandated drug and alcohol testing to 8 million private-sector pilots, drivers, and equipment operators. In 1992, President Clinton is elected and drug use begins increasing. Some say the increase was due to the Persian Gulf War and the media, especially the recording industry, with messages of sex, drug, and rock-and-roll. One of President Clintons first acts in the White House was to expand on the drug testing policies of Presidents Reagan and Bush; he starts by authorizing mandatory drug testing in prisons. In 1995, the United States Supreme Court gave the green light to mandatory drug testing of high school athletes. In the case of Veronia School District v.

Acton, the supreme court ruled that mandatory drug testing in high school athletics programs was not an unreasonable search or seizure, nor was the testing an invasion of the student athletes privacy. The Supreme Court ruled that suspicion less; random urinalysis drug testing of high school athletes was justified because the drug crisis in the school district had reached epidemic proportions. In the four and half years prior to the case, the Veronica school district had found only 12 positive drug tests. Ten years earlier the Supreme Court had struck down as unreasonable a New Jersey schools athlete drug testing program, in which 28 student athletes tested positive for drugs in a single year. In the Veronia case Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion; he was the same justice that wrote scornful dissent in the Von Raab decision.

Justice Scalia argued that student athletes have less privacy rights than the general student body because they dress and shower in close proximity. Legitimate privacy expectations are even less with regard to student athletes. School sports are not for the bashful. They require suiting up before each practice or event, and showering and changing afterward. Public school locker rooms, the usual sites of these activities, are not notable for the privacy they afford. The locker rooms in Vernonia are typical: no individual dressing rooms are provided; shower heads are lined up along the wall, unseparated by any sort of partition or curtain; not even all the toilet stalls have doors.

Justice Scalia wrote. Justice Scalia went on to add that the increase of drug use by the student body was largely fueled by the role model effect of athletes drug use. Current Situation In 2001, Congress allocated $185 million to the Office of National Drug Control Policy for advertisements and campaign projects, in 2002 the administration only asked for $180 million. On February 12 of 2002, President George W. Bush unveiled a $19 billion anti-drug package that aimed to cut drug use in the United States by 10 percent in two years and by 25 percent in five years. Also, the DARE program would receive $644 million, $103 million less than it received in 2001.

The decrease was due to the program in recent years being ineffective and wasteful. President Bushs plan also called for more emphasis on treatment and prevention, and federal grants for drug treatment would be increased by more than 6 percent, to $3. 8 billion for the fiscal year of 2003. Later that year the Supreme Court ruled on the landmark case of Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls. In the case of the BOE v. Earls, the Supreme Court ruled that an Oklahoma school policy of randomly drug testing students who participate in competitive, non-athletic extra-curricular activities was in fact constitutional.

In a 5-4 decision the court reversed a federal court ruling. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority said that the court found such a policy a reasonably effective means of addressing the school districts legitimate concerns in preventing, deterring, and detecting drug use. In the dissent, Justice Ruth Ginsburg said the testing program was capricious, even perverse, infringing on the rights of a student population least likely to be at risk from illicit drugs and their damaging effects. Clarification of the Problem Mandatory drug testing plays a vital role in protecting individuals and sports at both the collegiate and professional levels.

Unfortunately, when mandatory drug testing is carried over to the high school level, several consequences arise. When teenage drug use began to rise in the mid 90s public school districts began to adopt mandatory drug testing policies, these policies have since been upheld as constitutional by the United States Supreme Court. However, research has shown that these policies are unsuccessful at deterring drug use among teenagers and may even hamper the process. The reason is simple mandatory drug testing policies at the high school level are aimed at the students who are at the least risk of abusing drugs the athletes and extra-curricular participants. Arguments For Removal of Mandatory Drug Testing at the High School Level

It is extremely important for the government to remove mandatory drug testing in high schools for student athletes and extra-curricular participates. Research has shown that mandatory drug testing at the high school level is not effective for several reasons. Negative Impact on the Classroom or Team The first argument for the removal of mandatory drug testing at the high school level is that mandatory drug testing can have a negative effect on the classroom and on the team. Mandatory drug testing can undermine student-teacher relationships by pitting students against teachers, administrators, school nurses, and coaches who have to test them, because it erodes trust between the student and the tester and leaves the student feeling ashamed and resentful.

Whether a school district buys drug test directly from a manufacturer and administers the test themselves or has an independent source brought in to administer the tests, someone must be present as the student urinates to be sure the sample is their own. This collection process can be a humiliating violation of the students privacy, and can be especially embarrassing for adolescent. Lack of student-teacher or student-coach trust created by drug testing also creates an unnecessarily tense school environment for students. In this type of environment students feel they cannot address their fears or concerns, both about the use of drugs and factors in their lives that could lead to drug use, including depression, peer pressure, and an unstable family life.

Essentially, youre creating a prison-like atmosphere where students filled with fear and mistrust of authority, says Dr. Gottfredson of the University of Maryland. Trust is also jeopardized when teachers, administrators, and coaches act as confidants in some circumstances and are forced to be police in others. Schools need to strive to create an environment where students feel welcomed, safe, and trusted. Waste of Valuable School Financial Resources The second argument for the removal of mandatory drug testing at the high school level is mandatory drug testing is a waste of valuable school financial resources. Currently, it costs the NCAA $2. 9 million on testing its athletes annually, while Oklahoma State University spends between $25,000 and $30,000 to tests their athletes each year.

These figures include the extra costs it takes for drug tests that are able to detect steroid use and are comparable to the figures it costs an average school district to test their student athletes and extra-curricular participates with tests that cannot detect steroid use. Today, drug testing costs school districts an average of $42 per student tested, which amounts to $21,000 for a school district testing 500 students. This figure is for the initial drug test alone. Beyond the initial costs of drug testing, there are other long-term operational and administrative costs. The process of dealing with a positive test is often times fairly long and involved. A second test must be administered to rule out a false positive result. After the second test a treatment and follow up testing plan has to be in place.

Other costs associated with student drug testing include: monitoring students urination for accurate samples, documenting, bookkeeping, compliance with confidentiality requirements, and tort or other insurance to protect a school district from potential lawsuits associated with their drug testing policy. Sometimes costs for student drug testing far exceeds the benefits the tests produce. Over the past year the Oak Mountain school district in suburban Birmingham, Alabama conducted roughly between 2,500-3,000 tests on its 11,000 middle and high school students, at a cost of $65,000. These tests in return netted fewer than 25 positive test results. Thats an average cost of $2,600 per a student caught. The same can be said for the school district of Dublin, Ohio. That school district netted only 11 students who tested positive, those results ended up costing the district $35,000 (Appendix A).

The cost of drug testing can exceed the total a district spends on existing drug education, prevention, counseling programs, and could possible take scarce financial resources away from other departments. The growing costs of mandatory drug testing of student athletes and extra-curricular participants can seriously undermine the original intent of the drug test. Potential Barrier to Joining Extra-Curricular Activities The third argument for the removal of mandatory drug testing at the high school level is that mandatory drug testing may be a potential barrier to joining extra-curricular activities.

Research has shown an increase in juvenile crime and adolescent drug use occurs during unsupervised hours between the end of classes and the parents returning form work, usually between 3 P. M. and 6 P. M. Research and studies have also proven that students who participate in extra-curricular activities, including athletics are less likely to develop substance abuse problems, less likely to engage in dangerous behaviors, and more likely to stay in school, earn higher grades, and achieve higher education goals.

The reasons for these results are that extra-curricular activities usually fill the time between when school releases and when the parents return home in the evening and students are in contact with teachers, coaches, or peers that help identify and address problematic drug use. Since the Supreme Court ruled in the cases of Veronia v. Acton and BOE v. Earls, many school districts who perform drug testing has seen a decrease in participation of students involved in extra-curricular activities.

The reason is simple; student drug testing is usually aimed at student athletes and participates in extra-curricular activities, because drug testing an entire student body is considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The other reason school districts are seeing a reduction in participation of extra-curricular activities are concerns of the invasiveness of the tests and the violation of ones privacy. The Tulia Independent School District in Texas is an example of a school district that has seen a reduction in participation of extra-curricular activities and a rise in lawsuits regarding privacy issues, since it began a drug-testing program. One female student explained: I know lots of kids who dont want to get into sports and stuff because they dont want to get drug tested. Thats one of the reasons Im not into any [activity].

CauseIm on medication, so I would always test positive, and then they would have to ask me about my medication, and I would be embarrassed. And what if Im on my period? I would be too embarrassed. In the Gardner v. Tulia Independent School District case, a Texas District Court ruled that the school drug testing policy violated students Fourth Amendment rights, but the policy was upheld because of the precedence set forth by the United States Supreme Court. Results From False Positives The forth argument for the removal of mandatory drug testing at the high school level is that results from false positives could punish innocent students. A positive drug test could be a possibly devastating accusation for an innocent student.

Currently, the most widely used drug test by school districts is the urinalysis test, primarily because of its low cost per test. The problem with this test is it may falsely accuse students of being drug abusers, because the test has trouble distinguishing between drug metabolites that have closely similar structures. Some examples of potential problems are: over the counter decongestants may produce positive results for amphetamines, codeine can produce a positive result for heroine, and the consumption of food products with poppy seeds can produce a positive result for opiates. Hair follicle tests have also come under scrutiny. There has been no formal study or research to prove any bias between hair and skin color and results of the test.

However, there are no national standards for labs to follow when testing hair follicles, like urinalysis tests have. Without federal uniformed standards in testing hair follicles, there is no complete way to rule out false positive results. In an effort to eliminate the chances of false positives, school districts often ask their students to identify their prescription medications before administering a drug test. This cause a couple of problems, it first compromises a students privacy rights, then it creates a burden for school districts to make sure a students private information is safely guarded. An example of this problem happened at Tecumseh High School in Oklahoma when it first enacted its drug-testing program.

A choir teacher at the high school looked at students prescription drug lists and carelessly left the information on their desk, where other students could see it. Also, results of positive tests were handed out to 13 faculty members at a time. Carelessness and the school environment, which is prone to leaks, can lead to the violation of students privacy rights and costly litigation. Unintended Consequences The final argument for the removal of mandatory drug testing at the high school level is that mandatory drug testing of student athletes and extra-curricular participants can cause several unintended consequences. One of these consequences is that students may turn to drugs that cannot be detected by tests currently be used by schools today. These drugs include Ecstasy, inhalants, or alcohol.

These drugs in the long run could cause greater harm to the students and the community as a whole because they are not being detected by drug testing. Alcohol is a great example of this, because it is the most commonly abused drug by teenagers and commonly involved in teen drug related deaths. Another unintended consequence of mandatory drug testing is students may try to outsmart the test. Students who may fear testing positive on a test may try to find methods or products to cheat the test. If a student were to perform a search on the Internet, they would find links to websites selling drug-free replacement urine, herbal detoxifiers, hair follicle shampoo, and other products all designed to help someone cheat current drug tests.

An example of one of theses web sites is www. ureasample. com, where a student can order drug-free urine and a kit to insert the urine into the body. In addition students may try to make a mockery of drug testing programs. In one school district in Louisiana, students facing a hair follicle test shaved all their head and body hair. Finally, students learn that they are guilty until proven innocent. Under the United States Constitution, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty and they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Mandatory drug testing takes both of theses rights away from students. A student is assumed guilty until he or she can provide a clean urine sample.

Hans York, a deputy sheriff Wahkiakum, Washington, sued his local school district after they tried to force his son to submit to a testing program before joining the drama club. York, believed that having his son monitored for normal sounds of urination was not only a violation of his privacy, but sent him a message that hes guilty until proven innocent. As a guy who puts on a gun everyday to go to work, I can tell you that a lot of the dialogue stops when you become the police. Ethical ArgumentsKantian Ethics The Kantian approach states that people should not be used as a means to an end and universal principles should be adopted to protect human freedom and reason. Existentialism Approach The existential approach begins with the notion that human values are ultimately a function of human freedom.

Once restrictions of society are lifted, giving us freedom, are actions are deemed endorsement to ethical behavior. Rawlsian Approach The Rawlsian approach states that ethical decisions should be made behind the veil of Ignorance. A decision produced by all parties involved who ignore his or her current status and view the issue to the degree of what would be best for the weakest member of society. Rule Utilitarianism Approach The utilitarianism approach aims at producing the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. A rule utilitarian would ask, for a specific ethical issue, Which general action-guiding rule has been shown by history to create the greatest happiness?

Also, by using the risk-cost-benefit-analysis, one would find the risks of litigation, from privacy issues and false positive test results, and the costs for the drug testing program; far outweigh the benefits a high school receives for testing its athletes or students involved in extra-curricular activities (Appendix A). Objections and Rebuttals Collegiate and Professional Levels Some proponents of mandatory drug testing at the high school level would argue that sports at the collegiate and professional levels have mandatory drug testing policies in place, why shouldnt there be testing at the high school level. Currently, all NCAA Division I, II, and III student athletes are subject to mandatory drug testing by both the NCAA and by their schools.

The testing program ensures a fair playing field, protects the credibility of the sport, and tracks student athletes in danger of using drugs. The testing program by the NCAA also has proven to be successful in decreasing the amount of drug abuse by collegiate athletes. A 2001 study conducted by the NCAA revealed that 17% of the athletes surveyed said the threat of failing a drug test discourage them from using banned substances. The survey also showed a decrease of steroid use to 3% among football players. Most of the professional sport leagues in the United States have mandatory drug testing policies in place. The Olympics also tests all their athletes for illegal substances before competition. Their policies are in place for the same reasons the NCAA has drug testing.

Collegiate and professional athletes should be subject to mandatory drug testing because they are both being paid to play Collegiate athletes are on scholarships or receive preferred treatment (walk-ons) from their respective universities. Theses scholarships can cover tuition, housing, books, and possibly stipends for the athletes. Since the universities are providing compensation for the student athletes, then the student athletes should be subject to policies that a university has in place and are governed by. Professional athletes like collegiate athletes are being paid to play, except they receive income for participating in competition. Since they to are being paid to play, they should be subject to policies of their organization and their league.

Also with the commercialization of sports in this country, these athletes are seen as role models in society and their actions can and sometimes do, dictate those of society. Prevention and Protection The second objection to the removal of mandatory drug testing at the high school level is that mandatory drug testing is necessary at the high school level to prevent and protect students and athletes from drug abuse. A recent survey showed that steroid use among teenagers has rapidly increased over the last few years. This increase is both shown in athletes looking to gain an edge over competition and students not involved in athletics, in attempts to appear more buff.

School districts have an obligation to protect the health and safety of their students. When it comes to protecting their students they do this in several ways and one being mandatory drug testing. Some school districts see mandatory drug testing as a deterrent to drug use. Robert Weiner, former spokesperson for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said, The majority of kids support drug testing because it gives them an excuse to say no to drugs. Drug testing also helps school districts to identify and help those students taking drugs. Other students say the fear of being caught by drug testing has deterred their use of drugs.

Current research has shown that education and drug awareness have a greater impact on preventing teen drug use than mandatory drug testing does. Mandatory drug testing is also a barrier to participation of extra-curricular activities which research has proven to be a deterrent to teen drug abuse. Students who might already be at risk of using drugs might be discourage from joining extra-curricular activities that could have a good impact on their lives. Also students who are already engaged in extra-curricular activities may feel mistrusted and may set back the positive social development the student has under gone as a result of extra-curricular activities.

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