The Commerce Journal

June 14, 2013

Does drug testing work?

CISD Board of Trustees to vote on new drug testing policy

By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — In 2002, the United States Supreme Court voted in a 5-4 ruling to uphold a school district’s authority to randomly drug test students who engage in "competitive" extracurricular activities.

Since then, many districts have implemented policies that test various groups of students ranging from students who are only engaged in extracurricular activities, to the entire student body.

On June 17, Commerce Independent School District will vote on a drug testing policy that will test seventh through 12th grade students engaged in extracurricular activities, and students who drive to class this fall.

But, according to research from the University of Michigan, and the National Center for Education and Evaluation, drug testing may do more harm than good to the student body.

“Drug testing doesn’t lead to even a slight decrease in drug use,” Dr. Lavelle Hendricks, assistant professor of Psychology, Counseling and Special Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce, and an expert in the field of illegal drugs, said. “The research is questioning the validity of testing among students.”

The study, which was conducted over a four-year period and included 722 schools, showed that 36 percent of students admitted to using drugs in schools that did not have a drug testing policy, compared to 37 percent of student who admitted to using drugs in schools that did test.

With the use of synthetic drugs like K2 and bath salts on the rise, Hendricks said many students are able to pass drug tests because those drugs do not show up on a normal test, because it only tests for organic drugs such as marijuana.

“They should be testing for synthetic drugs,” he said. “But it is much more expensive to test for synthetic drugs.”

Hendricks said he respects and supports a school district’s code of conduct but said if policies are implemented, other forms of prevention and intervention need to be designed to help students.

“They need to have some type of professional counselor in the school district,” he said.

Also reportedly on the rise is the number of students using their parents’ prescription drugs without their parents’ knowledge.

Hendricks said parents need to be vigilant and pay attention to their children’s behavior at home.

Hendricks said there are six telltale signs of drug use: a change in friends, a change in mood, an unexplained loss of personal property, odd use of monies, low performance in academics and giving up extracurricular activities.

“Seek out treatment immediately when you see these changes in a child,” he said.

According to Hendricks, 80 percent of students who are caught using drugs in school will relapse within three weeks.

“It is difficult for school districts to find resources to test and to have treatment options for students,” he said. “We must provide some sort of treatment.”

Commerce ISD Superintendent Blake Cooper dicussed the potential policy during last month’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Before serving as superintendent at CISD, Cooper was principal in Edgewood, where he also implemented a drug testing policy. He said during the meeting that, at first, many of the parents had concerns about the system being truly random, but near the end of his tenure there he said most parents opted to have their children tested.

“The initial concern was that we were going to pick out certain students, but, by the time we left, 95 percent of kids were in the pool,” he said during the meeting. “Those parents used it to help their kid keep in line.”

Commerce ISD Superintendent Blake Cooper was unavailable for comment at press time.