Effectively Addressing the Issue of Drug Use Among Students

A School-wide Solution for a Nationwide Problem
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 8:00am

This is the third of several feature articles we are publishing which were written by Boothbay Region High School’s AP Language students. According to BRHS AP Language teacher Mark Gorey, the articles are a different incarnation of their Champions of Change proposals. One of the requirements for this assignment was to cite research sources.

“I don’t think that a lot of kids have a real good sense of the long term effects of things, especially risky behaviors, and that’s a huge topic which this falls under, but I think that a lot of kids do minimize what the adults are saying just because it’s another thing they’re not allowed to do.” – Allan Crocker, athletic director and Dean of Students, Boothbay Region High School.

Boothbay Region High School is facing a problem that schools have faced across the country for decades: drug use. However, as times change so do problems. As the days of cigarettes seem to be coming to an end, and a new issue with undetermined consequences has emerged across high schools and in BRHS. Electronic vaping devices are the new craze, and seemingly anyone who wants one can get one, including students.

I am proposing to increase student education surrounding the harmful effects of drugs and to begin drug tests for high school students participating in competitive extracurricular activities. Our school’s staff and administration are well aware of and greatly concerned about the new form of drug use taking place at BRHS. Efforts have been made such as suspensions, locking bathrooms, encouraging teachers to check bathrooms during their plan periods, and most recently, a school wide presentation. Despite these attempts made over the school year, drug use has shown no definitive signs of decreasing. Students are still being caught and suspended for using vaping devices at school (Crocker).

I am a student at BRHS, and I’ve seen first hand what is happening in our schools along with countless other students. I believe increasing education along with extracurricular drug tests will further motivate students to keep away from vapes and other drug products.

The JUUL epidemic facing high schools is a new issue, and many solutions are currently being implemented at other schools, such as vape detectors, haven’t been in place long enough to show their reliability and effectiveness. Because of this lack of information, BRHS has understandably restrained from installing bathroom detectors. However, older solutions that have been implemented by other schools have been shown to decrease drug use among students.

Students in schools that have random drug testing for students participating in extracurricular activities have been reported with less substance use than students in schools that don’t, like our own. Schools that implement random drug testing have seen a decrease in drug related suspensions (“Effectiveness”). This doesn’t mean the problem is entirely solved, but it is the responsibility of our administration to implement ways to improve the culture and climate of the BRHS learning environment.

I propose two main changes for our school to make in order to reduce drug use among students. To increase efforts to educate students about the harms of JUULs and other drugs, and to implement our right as a school to drug test students that participate in extracurricular activities. Our school recently had an assembly addressing various problems in the community, including drug use. I believe this assembly was a great way to educate students, and I believe more assemblies with a greater focus on the risks of drug use will be equally effective.

The reason for targeting students who participate in extracurricular activities is to stay within legal boundaries surrounding student drug testing in public schools. In June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court broadened the authority of public schools to test students for illegal drugs. The court ruled to allow random drug tests for all middle and high school students participating in competitive extracurricular activities. The ruling greatly expanded the scope of school drug testing, which previously had been allowed only for student athletes (“Effectiveness”). Our school currently has a pledge that all students competing in extracurriculars must sign. The pledge states that a student should not be taking illegal drugs while a part of an extracurricular, and can be removed from a team if caught doing so. No student wants to be removed from his/her favorite sports team or activity, but the school currently has no way to enforce the pledge, which leads some students to take the small risk of somehow getting caught. If drug testing were implemented to enforce current school policies, students would be more prone to avoiding the use of drugs, and would be able to use their sports team as an excuse if they find themselves caught under peer pressure. A certain number of students would be tested each near the end of each season at random to ensure there is an equal chance to be tested despite any suspicion or previous history of drug use. However, if a student who has signed the pledge is under the suspicion to have been using drugs, based on reports or behaviors that indicate influence, a student can also be asked to take a drug test.

I believe these methods will be effective, especially to students who might be more easily tempted by others to abuse drugs. Athletic Director Alan Crocker stated “I honestly think it’s a great idea, I think as long as we are within the confines of the law, as long as we’re allowed to do it we could see really see some effectiveness coming from this.” In my experience students facing addiction issues don’t understand what they’re doing to their bodies, and make jokes about using drugs. If they can understand the seriousness of the situation they’re in it would make it easier for them to seek help. Students who haven’t tried JUULs and other products will be more inclined to refuse any offers they’re given by other students if they understand the consequences, and wouldn't want to risk losing their spot on their favorite sports team. Some arguments that have come up against drug testing students is the invasion of student privacy, and the cost of drug testing. However, a typical drug test is between ten and thirty dollars, with the most expensive hair tests being as high as two-hundred (“Connecticut Clearinghouse”). Another concern is that drug testing would reduce student participation in extracurricular activities, but research has found that there is no evidence drug testing reduced students' participation in extracurricular activities (“Effectiveness”). While the concern of violating a student’s Fourth Amendment right is a valid concern, the Supreme Court has held on numerous occasions that drug testing for extracurricular activities is constitutional, as a drug free learning environment is more important than student privacy (“Drug Testing”).

Boothbay Region High School is facing a problem that schools have faced across the country for decades. I am proposing to increase student education surrounding the harmful effects of drugs, to encourage counseling for students caught using drugs, and to begin random drug tests​ for all high ​school​ students participating in competitive extracurricular activities. Other schools have found effectiveness in testing students, and education is vital in understanding any problem, whether it is one a student is facing or might face in the future. If students want to seek out an education and be a part of the many programs offered by our school, I see no reason for our administration to not move towards a drug free environment, even if it could potentially risk a few players on the field. I believe it is of vital importance to work on reducing the drug problems at our school, and become a leading example for other schools in the state of Maine. The Boothbay Region High School administration must work to establish new policies to begin education and drug testing as soon as possible. The sooner we begin to limit the problem, the sooner we can help students who don’t understand what they’re doing when they get their hands on a vape.

Works Cited

“Connecticut Clearinghouse.” ​CT Clearinghouse, www.ctclearinghouse.org/topics/drug-testing/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Testing in Schools.” NIDA, 4 May 2017, https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/drug-testing/faq-drug-testing-in-schools

“The Effectiveness of Mandatory- Random Student Drug Testing.” Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Home Page, a Part of the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance: The Effectiveness of Mandatory- Random Student Drug Testing, ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104025/index.asp

“Drug Testing in Public Schools.” US Legal, Inc. ​Education, education.uslegal.com/drug-testing-in-public-schools/