From New Jersey comes the unwelcome news that the Lacey Township Board of Education has voted to approve a program of “voluntary” random drug testing for middle school students.
“I’m a supporter for any intervention to give another reason for kids to say ‘no’ and that can start at any age, especially with our young teens,” district superintendent Craig Wigley told NJ Advance Media after the Aug. 15 vote. Seventh and eighth graders who participate in athletic programs or extracurricular programs will be given the “option” to participate in the testing program, with parental consent.
For a first violation, a student would be barred from sports or extracurricular activities for 10 days. With a second violation, it goes up to 45-days, with mandatory attendance of eight counseling sessions. A third strike, of course, means you’re out—barred from sports and extracurricular programs permanently. The district already has a similar program in place for high school students.
Local news media have been pretty gushy.
“It’s really another tool for schools and families to keep their kids safe. I think it’s a wonderful addition and it’s good to be in the forefront of that,” Wigley said. “We’re being proactive.”
No civil liberties groups were asked for a quote, it seems.
An editorial on myCentralJersey notes that the Partnership for Drug Free New Jersey supports the policy. But it does add: “Not all organizations fighting substance abuse support school drug testing programs.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes drug testing in schools, saying such programs lack “solid evidence for their effectiveness.” The organization also raised concerns about privacy—and the potential for false positives when prescribed medications are flagged as illegal drugs.
The editorial closes with the equivocation that decisions on such programs “should rest with local communities… But anything that can help prevent the scourge of substance abuse deserves serious consideration.”
A NJ Advance Media reader commentary page on the question brought back mixed responses. One Hunter Hamilton wrote: “Heroin [is an] epidemic in Lacey… [S]ome parents need all the help they can get.”
But a RA001 replied: “I would rather you test my kid academically and leave the drug and alcohol testing to me. Focus on the task at hand—education not parenting.”