Drug testing worth the cost


We’re always testing kids to see if they’ve been listening to us. That’s what spelling and math tests are
for — they measure how much has sunk into those magnificent moldable minds that are under construction.

We test their swimming skills before we let them jump off the high diving board.
We test their driving skills before we hand over keys and licenses.
And most local schools test high school students to see if they listened to the “just say no” message.

All but two school districts in Wood County test students for drugs and alcohol. Most test athletes. Some
test students in extra-curricular activities that require a paid adviser. And one tests teens who drive
to school. The law does not allow for all students to be tested.
The theory is that drug testing gives teenagers an out when approached by others about drugs or alcohol.

“We drug test to give students another reason to say no to tobacco, alcohol and other drugs,” said North
Baltimore Principal Bob Falkenstein. “Drug testing works … It provides a support for kids who are
debating experimentation.”
Most of the schools started drug testing in the era when grant funding for such programs was plentiful.
When that funding dried up, the school leaders thought the programs were worthwhile enough to continue
funding them locally. And nearly all the districts have on-site staff who specialize in alcohol, tobacco
and other drugs.
The two districts not doing drug testing — Bowling Green and Eastwood — are putting their faith in
prevention programs. Officials from those districts point out that their student handbooks make it clear
that drug and alcohol use is illegal.
But I have to wonder which is more likely to have an impact on teens testing their independence — a
handbook mentioning the illegality of drugs and alcohol, or the thought of having to pee in a cup and be
benched for bad choices.
Many teens look at student handbooks as an opportunity to push limits. Just read the dress code section
and then check out what students wear to school.
Anyone who has raised, lived with, worked with, taught, or spent any length of time with a typical
teenager knows they can be impulsive, unpredictable and irrational. So giving them a solid reason for
saying “no” may be the best incentive to comply.
The purpose of student drug testing isn’t punishment, explained Perrysburg Superintendent Tom Hosler.
That school’s program allows for lesser punishment for students who admit they are going to test
positive. “It’s more about giving them an opportunity to do the right thing,” he said.
Rossford High School Principal Tony Brashear agreed. “We are not trying to catch anyone. We are trying to
deter the behavior by the students.”
Bill Ivoska, who evaluates drug and alcohol programs in local schools, said teens are less likely to use
drugs or alcohol when they fear harm, such as harm from police, parents, their school, their health, or
in privileges. They are also less likely to use if their friends don’t use, and if drugs and alcohol are
not easily accessible.
Studies show that students subjected to random testing report less substance abuse than those not tested.

Ivoska feels random testing is most effective if paired with prevention programs which can reach a larger
part of the student population.
I’m certainly not absolving parents from their duties of teaching drug and alcohol abstinence to their
children. But it doesn’t hurt to have repetition in those lessons. I don’t know about you, but there
have been instances when I’ve had to tell my teens something a dozen times for it to even start taking
root in their rebellious brains.
We test teens on just about everything else. Considering the costs of drug and alcohol use on teens’
lives, it seem like testing is worth the expense.

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