How young is too young to be tested for drugs without cause? In case you didn’t hear, schools across the country are pushing the envelope, testing children at younger and younger ages, all under the guise of keeping sports drug-free and protecting the youth. But many parents and experts are fighting back—saying that high-school and even middle-school kids shouldn’t be subjected to such treatment.
According to a New York Times story, an estimated 14% of school districts across the country conduct drug testing of some sorts. Many of them only test athletes, while others test for any extra-curricular activities—including things like band and drama.
At least one family is fighting back, suing the Delaware Valley School District where their 12-year old daughter was told she would have to pee in a cup in order to participate in sports and the scrapbooking club. Her parents were irate when the 7th-grader brought home a permission slip that stated in order to participate, she would have to be tested.
“We wanted to do it to create a general awareness of drug prevention,” said assistant superintendent Steve Klotz of the Maryville School District in Missouri. He echoes a common sentiment among school administrators who believe they are in the right by doing these tests.
But what these administrators fail to realize is that the tests have little, if any effect. Of all of the kids tested, no one is testing positive for performance enhancing drugs and of the very small percentage testing positive for anything, it’s always pot.
One study, which looked at the athletes of five high schools with drug testing policies and six without, found that the students at each groups of schools showed no difference in their recent use of drugs or alcohol. In other words, the testing has no deterrent effect.
So, why would the schools risk alienating children through such a blatent invasion of privacy? Like everything else, it boils down to money.
“Drug testing is a multibillion-dollar industry,” said Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of the Division of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University. “They go to these schools and say it’s great. But do the schools actually look at the data? Schools don’t know what to do.”
Just like the pharmaceutical reps do when they visit doctor’s offices, representatives from these outside testing companies visit schools and “pitch” the benefits of a several-thousand dollar a year program, all to make a buck.