Lazy Parents Let Schools Drug Test Kids

drug testIf the idea of parents sitting at home waiting for their teenagers to get home so they can hit them with an at-home drug test gives you the heebie jeebies, it's about to get worse. Now schools are adding random drug testing for kids as young as the sixth grade. And their parents are A-OK with it.


A middle school in New Jersey that's added the option as it preps for back-to-school actually requires parents to sign off on the tests. In a nod to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines that advise kids should NOT be tested without their knowledge, the Oxford Street School in Belvidere will let kids know their parents have enrolled them in the program (although the tests themselves will be randomized to prevent kids from using all the test-beating tricks available with a few keystrokes on Google).

I'll admit there's a bit of me that likes the idea. The school won't call the cops or punish the children with suspension or detention. Instead the parents will be notified, and the kids will receive counseling services. That's exactly what kids need: treatment, not criminalization. The best defense in the case of drug abusing kids is a best offense.

But that's just it. Our kids need a good offense. At home. Maybe it's because I was raised in a "we don't air our dirty laundry in public" kind of household, in a pre-"share every minute detail of my day on Facebook" era, but I'm wary of giving a school district this sort of power over my child's mistakes. I'd like to think that a) my own talks about the dangers of drugs at home will be enough to prevent her diving into that world, and b) she will look at school as a safe place, a place she's accepted, a place where she is trustworthy to the teachers, not a suspected criminal.

This is what random drug testing does to our kids. It treats them like criminals first, our kids second. And the AAP has found little gain in return for the huge loss of our child's trust in use. There's been no marked improvement in marijuana usage rates when drug testing is put in place. There's been no real link between school-based drug testing and students' reports of drug use.

And what do we lose? Our kids' trust. Our ability to speak to them. And our own sense of self worth. If we're drug testing them, it means we're not doing a good enough job with the prevention discussions.

In-school drug testing may make some parents feel safer, but it would just make me feel like I was passing the buck.

Would you allow your teen's school to drug test him or her? Why?


Image via Andres Rueda/Flickr

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