Drug Test America’s High School and Jr. High School Students!

Drug Test America’s High School and Jr. High School Students!

Yes, we are the land of the free. Yes, we have rights to privacy. Yes, there are laws that prevent intrusion into our private lives. Yes, it is against the law to search our private property without a warrant.

However, teens do not have these rights until they become of legal age and are emancipated from their parent’s control. I believe this age is 18 years in most States.

Until then, parents can search their kid’s rooms and their persons and there are no rights to privacy, but that which parents wish to grant.  Good kids will stay out of serious trouble and they normally do not look like they are doing anything very wrong. However, in my private practice,  good parents have been forced by their child’s suspicious behavior patterns to suspend trust and search their “private” domains. In doing so they have found under-age sexual alliances; plans to take a car and a gun and run away; weapons; drugs; alcohol.

With the consent of the parent our adolescent students should receive random drug tests in school. Some parents may not wish to sign a consent from for personal reasons and I do not see a problem with this. However, if there are “reasonable grounds for suspicion” about a particular student’s involvement in drugs, the school should have the responsibility and the right to test that student for drugs.

Some will argue that “reasonable suspicion” should be legally defined. Yes, if it has not already been done, it should be: ASAP.

Some will argue that parent’s rights should trump the school’s reasonable suspicion imperatives.  I will argue they are wrong. The kids involved with drugs are normally sharing the drugs with friends, or selling them to others. They are models for others to imitate. The spreading influence among peers is what I call bad behavioral contagion. Such a behavioral contagion spreads developmental destruction to unaffected kids and increases the odds of dependency (addiction), abuse, and death. It also makes effective education of affected children all but impossible.

The harm of all of this far outweighs the harm of a drug test to an innocent student.

The harm done to society, among all of the other contemporary harms that we could name, is unsustainable.

I hope you will support parental approval of random adolescent student drug testing in our schools. Also, support mandatory drug testing of those students whose behavior provides reasonable suspicion of their drug involvement.

Please see the following brief article.


V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.   7/31/11

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4 Responses to “Drug Test America’s High School and Jr. High School Students!”

  1. Gonzo Says:

    I understand your perspective Tom, and you have valid points. The problem is execution and the use of a publicly funded education system to perform mandatory drug testing, where the only “enforcement” available to that system is to deny education, thus making a bad situation worse.

    Clearly, given your profession, you see the destructive results that can occur from drug use, improper parenting, and cultural issues which are lending toward spiritual decline. What you don’t see are the cases where kids remain normal despite those issues.

    Now, lets say drug testing became mandatory in school.
    1) What mechanism will be used to force parents in to action?

    2) How do you prevent a kid from cheating by having a container of someone elses sample that they poor in to the sample cup – are you in favor of having someone monitor each and every child as they urinate in a cup? – what about the kid that will not be able to perform under such awkward surveillance, and what about the impact on mental wellbeing for them? Personally, I would view such an action as a form of abuse.

    3) Costs for such a program would be astronomical. I highly doubt a few billion dollars are going to cover such a program nationwide, let alone a program that would require monthly tests to help alleviate false positives. Even if you tested only half, (the older), of kids in school, that would be 40 million. The cost of testing monthly during school year would exceed $35 billion yearly just for testing, and thats before the cost of doing whatever the school would do after a positive result.

    4) Kids will learn to beat the tests. Parents will then feel a false sense of security.

    5) Other kids will fail the test but be innocent, which could result in huge issues for the family.

    6) Do you believe our country will be better off when a bunch of teens get booted from their parents homes when their parents over react to test results?

    7) What will the success rate be for the “correctional program”? What program currently exists that boasts any favorable outcome?

    How about we simply have doctor’s office offer up drug screening during physical exams of older kids, and the test results go directly to the parents. The parents get charged an extra $40 on top of the office visit fee for the privilege of knowing more about their kid.


    • vtmawhinney Says:


      Thanks for your very reasonable concerns.

      Actually, in my practice (32 yrs) and in my life (70 yrs in March), I have seen many kids ” who have remained normal despite those issues” and many who have not.

      I admit that drug testing in schools is a difficult issue. Frankly, the results of various approaches to testing have yielded mixed results. However, there is much anecdotal evidence showing promise and it remains an approach that I think should be tested in the real world, and the results measured. Whatever does and does not work, needs to be promulgated. What works will, I hope, spread like wildfire through communities under the threat of drugs.

      I will encourage communities to do their experiments and report their results. I believe the the right combination of variables: Sampling intervals and proportions, consequences both positive and negative, parental involvement and therapeutic interventions will produce good results.

      By the way, I believe that drug testing for school personnel is also appropriate, as it is in many of America’s businesses.

      Thanks for your thoughts.




  2. Gonzo Says:

    I have to disagree with this one.
    Schools are about education, not law enforcement.

    If a school administers tests, and the results are positive, then what? – Do you support tossing a child from school until a parent and child goes about abiding by some bloated governmental program of red tape? -And at who’s expense, the tax payers again? Sound all to socialist and Orwellian to me.

    A person can test positive because of false positives caused by poppy-seed bagels (which look like heroin to the urine tester), nasal decongestant (amphetamines); and anti-inflammatory drugs or Ibuprofin (marijuana). The most popular drug test, the EMIT, gives false positives between 10 and 30% of the time. Who pays for all of the legal fees to fight incorrect results, human error, or mislabeled and mixed up samples?

    And why should tax payers, most of which do not have kids, be saddled with the cost of drug testing other peoples kids?

    If a parent is interested in knowing whether or not their child is using drugs, there are several drug test kits available.

    Parenting is the parents responsibility, not a schools. They have a hard enough time trying to get the “educating” part right.


    • vtmawhinney Says:

      Gonzo, Thanks for your well-considered response.

      If a kid tests positive, the parents should be called in for a conference. What happens from their can be left to community standards. Perhaps retesting, special drug education, in repeat offenders, legal consequences. Retesting and special observation could take care of false-positive issues.

      I do not want government intrusion in our lives either. However, many parents are irresponsible. Kids on drugs among other kids fuel behavioral contagion of drug use. The damages of that outweight the costs of a better control method.

      I don’t like mettal detectors in our schools, cops in our schools, random locker searches in our schools, and I don’t like drug testing in our schools. When I was a kid, all of this would have been unimaginable. But in this case, reality has to trump ideology, for me. For tax payers who do not have kids, they will have to pay to prosecute drug offenders and to keep them in prison later, if the problem is not controlled at the start. Perhaps they, or their family members may be a victim of drug related crimes.

      Bad Behavioral Contagion flows through many, many avenues and it harms people and society in many different ways. It is mind-boggling to contemplate.

      I suggest we take some of the billions of dollars we send in foreign aid to countries that hate us and generally vote against us in the U.N. and put it into repairing our declining socioculture. While we are at it, perhaps we should also stop funding the U.N., netting more millions of dollars for our own growing needs.

      My rule of thumb would be, no more governmental intervention than is essential to survive. Some is obviously necessary. Too much is destructive to the common good. The sweet-spot is not so easy to find in changing times.



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