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Back To School 2019: Backpack, Lunchbox And A Drug Test

Laura Ungar

Thirteen-year-old Aura Brillhart and her 11-year-old sister, Morgan, will face a brand new kind of take a look at in class this yr: a drug take a look at.

The center and excessive colleges of their group of Fort Scott, Kan., are among the many newest to require random drug testing of scholars who need to take part in sports activities, golf equipment, dances or some other extracurricular actions.

“I hate that it’s even an issue for us to have to address,” stated their mother, Jody Hoener. “But putting our heads in the sand isn’t going to make things any better.”

Fort Scott and the Bushland Independent School District close to Amarillo, Texas, be a part of the rising variety of communities throughout America testing youngsters as younger as 11 for illicit drug use. Nationally, a federal government survey shows, practically 38% of college districts had such insurance policies in 2016, up from 1 / 4 of districts a decade earlier.

But over that point, the variety of colleges using different drug prevention methods dropped. The newest School Health Policies and Practices Study reveals declining variety of districts require elementary colleges to show drug and alcohol prevention, have preparations with off-site organizations to supply drug therapy and supply funding for skilled improvement on drug prevention.

The rise in drug testing is a response to the still-raging opioid epidemic and liberalized marijuana legal guidelines spreading throughout the nation, in line with well being specialists and educators. “The biggest fear is that legalization will lead to more teen use,” stated Dr. Paul Glaser, a toddler psychiatry professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

More colleges are adopting drug testing at the same time as analysis stays blended on how efficient it’s at lowering teen drug use. Supporters say it provides youngsters a cause to say no to medication and will determine college students who need assistance with drug issues. But opponents argue it invades pupil privateness and diverts cash from academic priorities like books.

Bushland’s program prices about $10,000 a yr. Fort Scott’s prices about $four,000, which Superintendent Ted Hessong stated is the most costly a part of the district’s total drug prevention technique.

To Amber Toth, principal at Fort Scott High School, the cost-benefit ratio is obvious. Stopping even one pupil from happening the pricey path of drug abuse and dependancy, she stated, “is worth $4,000.”

Counteracting ‘Peer Pressure’

Chris Wigington, superintendent of the Bushland district in Texas, stated the college board requested him to look into the thought of drug testing after he arrived lower than two years in the past. In his earlier college techniques, he stated, testing helped youngsters resist peer stress to take medication.

“We all know peer pressure is very real,” he stated.

The applications — allowed underneath a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling — are related in Bushland and Fort Scott, with random testing of a comparatively small portion of the scholar physique a number of occasions a yr. Under Fort Scott’s coverage, 10 center college college students and 20 highschool college students are randomly examined every month with a urine screening for 10 medication.

If they take a look at constructive, they’re suspended from extracurricular actions. In each Fort Scott and Bushland, outcomes are disclosed solely to college students, mother and father and sure college employees members, corresponding to the scholar’s principal. The info doesn’t seem on tutorial information and isn’t shared past college partitions.

Families in Fort Scott could decide out of testing. But in the event that they do, their kids can’t take part in actions and even park a automotive within the college parking zone. Toth stated only some households have opted out.

“Our policy is a little bit different than some of the policies of schools in our area,” stated Toth, who wrote it. “It has a treatment component where a student can lessen their consequences.”

The college is partnering with a psychological well being supplier providing free companies to college students who take a look at constructive. Hessong stated the testing and therapy insurance policies are half of a bigger district drug prevention technique that features drug schooling in center and highschool well being lessons, a “Red Ribbon Week” consciousness program in elementary colleges and sweeps by drug-sniffing canine introduced in by native regulation enforcement within the center and excessive colleges. He stated he’s unsure of the whole price of those efforts.

Toth stated the district’s drug prevention efforts handle a rising challenge. A 2018 youth survey confirmed that pot and prescription drug abuse amongst center and highschool college students was increased in Bourbon County, the place Fort Scott is positioned, than the state common.

More than eight% of scholars within the county reported utilizing marijuana within the earlier month, for instance, in contrast with a state common of 6.5%. And Toth stated marijuana use has been rising amongst native college students as different components of the nation have legalized it.

“They sort of view it as harmless,” she stated.

Hoener, a former social employee who’s now Bourbon County’s financial improvement director, stated her eighth grader, Aura, has instructed her about buddies caught with pot of their lockers.

Concerns Linger

It’s unclear whether or not testing will make a distinction. “It’s a mixed bag on the research,” stated Washington University’s Glaser.

A 2015 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics stated there’s an absence of convincing scientific information demonstrating that testing works. A previous study, directed by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance in 2010, examined seven college districts and in contrast substance use reported in excessive colleges that examined and those who didn’t. It discovered that 16% of scholars topic to drug testing reported utilizing medication in contrast with 22% of scholars in colleges that didn’t take a look at. Testing didn’t change college students’ reported intentions to make use of medication sooner or later.

Glaser stated some college students discover methods to make use of medication outdoors of testing intervals or select ones that aren’t screened. Sometimes, he stated, youngsters who’re suspended from actions after testing constructive could get depressed or bored, making them extra doubtless to make use of medication.

Lauren Bonds, authorized director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, stated the expansion in such testing is regarding. “There are more effective ways to limit student drug use,” she stated.

Glaser stated districts would do finest to have an array of drug prevention and therapy applications. One good technique, he stated, is figuring out younger kids affected by trauma or household issues and getting them assist earlier than they flip to medication. He’s concerned with such a program in Missouri that gives companies to younger kids referred by colleges and in addition provides college students, academics and households preventive info and schooling.

“It’s always harder to treat the brain after it’s been affected by these substances,” he stated.

Aura stated that despite the fact that she doesn’t use illicit medication, she realizes she could also be randomly chosen for testing sooner or later. “I’d be OK with it,” she stated, “but it would also be weird.”

KHN senior correspondent Sarah Jane Tribble contributed to this report.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nationwide well being coverage information service. It is an editorially impartial program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which isn’t affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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