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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Rockhurst High School, in Kansas City, Missouri, early this month approved program to start collecting hair from students for mandatory drug tests.

The school plans to start the random drug testing during the 2013-2014 school year, reports Christa Dubill at KSHB. Administrators at the Jesuit-run school said that about 60 strands of hair will be cut from selected students’ heads or bodies and sent off for testing by a company called Psychemedics.

A staff member at Rockhurst is a barber, and will reportedly be handling the hair collection.

The school plans to test for a number of substances, including marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, PCP, opiates, and methamphetamine.

Rockhurst High School student Matthew Brocato, center, junior class president:"At first you're taken aback. Is it for the better?"
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Rockhurst High School student Matthew Brocato, center, junior class president:
“At first you’re taken aback. Is it for the better?”
[Tammy Ljungblad/The Kansas City Star]

“Our point is, if we do encounter a student who has made some bad decisions with drugs or alcohol, we will be able to intervene, get the parents involved, get him help if necessary, and then help him get back on a path of better decision making, healthier choices for his life,” claimed Rockhurst Principal Greg Harkness.

“It’s a huge shift,” Harkness said, reports Joe Robertson at The Kansas City Star. “But it’s one we need to do.”

If a student tests positive for any of the substances, a guidance counselor is notified. The counselor will then bring in the parents and the student to “have a conversation” about “how to best get the student help.” Blech…

If a student tests positive again at the 90-day point, the dean of students is notified (big whoop). Students with a second positive are forced to “consult with” a school psychologist to determine why rehab failed, reports William Browning at Yahoo! News. A third positive test, which happens 180 days after the initial positive, means the student will be expelled from the school.

Rockhurst’s policy is considered the first of its kind in the Kansas City area since it tests all students. Some area private schools administer urinalysis and breath tests, but none of those programs are as thorough — or as expensive — as Rockhurst’s.

Rockhurst recently surveyed students, using an outside consulting company, and supposedly found that “students’ perceptions about drug use were actually much different then reality.” That can almost certainly be roughly translated as “They’re not buying the bullshit we tell them about marijuana.”

“On the one hand, there are students who’ve come to me and the administration saying that this is a great thing — they’ve been needing to do this for a while now; they’re very impressed that Rockhurt has taken this step,” said Matthew Brocato, 17, the junior class president at Rockhurt.

“On the other hand, there’s the students who think this is an invasion of privacy,” Brocato said. “Some parents think they’re taking the role of parenting away from them.”

“When you hear ‘drug testing,’ you think cops,” Brocato told Joe Robertson of The Kansas City Star. “At first you’re taken aback. Is it for the better?”

The American Civil Liberties Union believes school drug testing, though permissible, is unnecessary.

“Nothing prohibits it,” said Doug Bonney, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “But it is a colossal waste of money.”

Schools risk false positive drug tests, according to the ACLU, and the tests take money away from other programs. They can also undermine trust and drive away students who might otherwise have been motivated to learn.

Private schools are allowed to test all students, while public schools are restricted by the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.

In public schools, random drug testing can only be performed for those participating in extracurricular activities such as athletics or band, or upon those who drive themselves to school. Private schools, where students and parents pay for everything, have no such restrictions.

 

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