School districts, much like employers, have begun to implement drug-testing policies. Many school officials cite statistics relating to school performance and safety among drug users. Whether the drug testing acts as a method of screening students or as a method of deterrence from drug use, the popularity of this practice has increased significantly in many school systems.
Supporters of high school drug testing often cite governmental statistics. These numbers show a steadily growing number of teenage drug users each year. Those in favor of mandatory drug testing suggest that such measures may be effective in keeping teenagers from using drugs. Fear of facing expulsion from school or punishment from their parents may be a good deterrent for high school students.
Although some officials would like to see a policy of mandatory testing of every student, most drug screenings require parental consent. Most schools require that there be probable cause or reasonable suspicion before requesting a drug test. If a teacher notices a student who appears aloof or has red and glassy eyes, he or she may request a drug test.
More common than random or suspicion-based high school drug testing is the testing of high school athletes. In nearly every school district, students who wish to compete in school sports must sign a release for a drug screening. This has become common in schools because of statistics showing that male high school athletes have a greater risk of drug abuse. These facts, accompanied by the fear of injury during competitions, have fueled the debate and existence of drug testing among athletes.
Opponents of drug testing claim that it is a violation of privacy to require students to take drug tests. Privacy advocates suggest that with requests for mandatory drug screenings comes the potential for abuse. A few cases have existed in which a student was randomly searched and found to be in possession of drug paraphernalia. In these cases, the students were either suspended from school or sent to drug rehabilitation centers; it is often the case that these students were productive in school and were not necessarily considered to be problem students. Regardless of these isolated cases, many school districts defend the benefits of drug testing. Although formal statistics do not prove the theory, many educational experts believe that high school drug testing deters students from using or abusing illegal drugs.