New Jersey School District to Drug-Test Middle Schoolers

Filed under: In The News, Alcohol & Drugs

A New Jersey school board voted to start random drug testing for middle-schoolers. Credit: Getty

In an effort to stamp out drugs and alcohol abuse by kids before they get to high school, a New Jersey school district voted Jan. 12 to roll out a random drug-testing program for middle-school students, The Express-Times reports.

The testing is necessary, Belvidere School District Board of Education President Brian Smith tells the newspaper, "because sixth and eighth graders use drugs. ... We want to change student behavior."

Only two school board members voted against the measure, which includes a separate alcohol testing policy, as well, according to the Express-Times.

"I haven't seen compelling evidence random drug testing is the answer for preventing students from doing drugs," board member Jane Bullis tells the newspaper, saying she believes it's an issue better handled privately by parents.

Under the drug-policy revision, which extends a program already in place at Belvidere High School to Oxford Street Elementary School, students in grades six through eight can volunteer to be added to a pool from which they could be randomly selected for drug testing.




Earlier this week, Oxford Elementary School Principal Sandra Szabocsik told ParentDish she had received mostly positive feedback from the parents she's spoken to about the proposal.

Administrators claim the program would serve as a deterrent to drug use and provide students a way out from peer pressure. For students who test positive, it presents an opportunity for education and counseling, officials tell the Express-Times.

"I've seen a lot of children take the wrong road," Superintendent Dirk Swaneveld tells the newspaper. "The sooner we can get to them, the better."

School officials claimed earlier this week that kids who test positive will not be punished, nor will the police be notified. Rather, they would get counseling or be referred to a drug rehab center. Szabocsik told ParentDish she's not sure what will happen if a student refuses to get counseling.

"Belvidere is a small town and there's not a whole lot to do," Szabocsik told ParentDish earlier this week. "The younger kids tend to hang out with their older brothers and sisters. The hope is that knowing that they may be drug tested at school the next day will serve as a deterrent."
The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees.

"Random drug testing does not reduce drug use among young people," Jay Rorty, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, tells ParentDish. "The high cost of false positives and intrusive nature of the test make random testing a poor tool in the important work of drug education."

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