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Should a School be Allowed to Drug Test Student Athletes?

The Short of It

South Carolina's Beaufort County School District will start random drug testing of student athletes in the fall, a policy that has parents divided.

The Lowdown

While prohibited from giving random drug tests to the general student body, teachers or staff, the law allows the school district to test students with special privileges, such as participating in athletics and extracurricular activities as well as having a campus parking permit. The Beaufort County School District will begin the new policy by drug testing at least 38 students at each high school each month, and phasing in testing of extracurricular participants in 2016 and parking permit holders in 2017. Drug testing will cost the district up to $50,000 the first year.

The school is implementing the new policy to identify students struggling with substance abuse to provide them with services and counseling. If a student fails a drug test, he or she will not be able to participate in athletics for 365 days unless they receive an assessment by a licensed substance-abuse professional, complete at least one treatment session within 10 days of the positive test, pass another drug test within 90 days of the first failed test, and meet with their parent and principal.

Second and third offenses carry increasing levels of consequences, and corresponding consequences will apply to the privileges of extracurricular participants and parking permit holders when their drug testing begins. Students will not be reported to law enforcement or disciplined by the school unless they are under the influence at the time of the test.

In a local news survey of about 620 people, 55 percent said they opposed the district's plan, while 41 percent were in favor. Some parents in the South Carolina school district think the school is overstepping and unfairly targeting certain students, while others think student drug abuse is a significant problem that the school needs to monitor.

The Upshot

While it is admirable that the school wants to provide services and counseling to students struggling with substance abuse, I'm not sure if the school's policy is fair or useful. It seems like an invasion of students' privacy to be able to randomly test them without cause, and it's an inappropriate condition of participating in athletics and extracurriculars or parking on campus. The kids who want to get away with it will probably find a way, and it seems like the school district's money would be better spent on another method of addressing students' substance abuse issues.

What do you think?

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