A school in Georgia has decided to start drug-testing some of its students.
Brookstone School, a private school in Columbus, announced that the drug-testing will be voluntary next year.
However, in 2019, it will become mandatory.
The tests will only target older students, in grades 8 through 12.
The testing is in response to the current nationwide drug epidemic, officials said.
“The daily news has made us all acutely aware of the significance and size of this growing crisis. We must be a part of the solution as we work to save children from this critical health issue,” said Board of Trustee Chairman Jason Branch, reported WTVM.
Discussions about implementing the testing have been ongoing for five years, Branch said.
“From that point in time, we have continued to follow the issues, do research, contemplate what is our role as a school, what can we do to help protect our children, and protect and create a safe environment for them, and to promote their health and safety and well-being,” he told WRBL.
“We don’t look at this being a discipline problem. We look at it as being a public health problem,” added Head of Brookstone School, Marty Lester.
School officials were asked by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer how many students have been disciplined due to drugs.
“The disciplinary issues related to drug use has been minimal at most. We cannot share exact statistics due to confidential reasons. But, this is not a volume issue, it is about the health and well-being of every child,” responded Connie Mansour, the school’s communication’s director.
A study by the U.S. Department of Education looked at the effectiveness of mandatory random student drug testing, examining seven districts, 36 high schools, and more than 4,700 students.
The study’s goal was to reduce student substance use in three ways, according to a statement of its findings, “by deterring substance use, by detecting substance use, and by having spillover effects on other students in the school as they observe and are influenced by the behavior of their peers.”
Students were surveyed before and after the program.
Key findings included some 16 percent of students subject to the testing reporting using substances in the past 30 days versus 33 percent of comparable students in schools without the program.
The study also found that there was no evidence of any “spillover effects” to students who were not subject to testing,
A Ledger-Enquirer analysis, though, said that the decision makes sense in the context of the nationwide opioid epidemic.
“It makes sense for Brookstone, whose parents can afford private school and presumably any increased fees for drug testing, to choose this course of action,” wrote Dimon Kendrick-Holmes.
“The thing that scares me about opioids is that you can’t smell it on your kids’ breath. You don’t find empty opioid cans in the woods behind your house. It can hook them fast, and then you’d better find out about it before it’s too late. It’s scary. And that’s why the leaders at Brookstone want to protect the children in their charge. You can argue whether that’s their role, but it makes sense to me.”