Q & A
Zero Tolerance Redefined
The essence of non-punitive random drug testing is that it is protection, not punishment. The intent is to deter drug use, or detect it early so treatment can begin. The idea is to keep kids in the school system, free from the devastating consequences of addiction to alcohol, tobacco and drugs (ATOD) as opposed to zero tolerance policies that lead to suspension or expulsion which put the student further behind to the extent that many simply give up. In so doing, they ruin their own chances for a productive life, and impose a burden on literally all aspects of public service. UC Santa Barbara research has indicated the cost of one high school dropout is $387,000 over the course of their life.
Does Non-Punitive Drug Testing Mean No Consequences?
No! Consequences for errant behavior are part of the learning process for young people. What the consequences are can be determined beforehand by the parents and schools working together. But, when the rules are broken, the child knows it was a result of his or her own actions. Examples of consequences could be loss of driving privileges, suspension for sports or extra-curricular activities, community service, completing drug education or treatment programs, etc. If they already have a problem of addiction, treatment can begin, hopefully earlier rather than later.
Does Random Drug Testing Deter Drug Use?
Absolutely! The biggest reason kids don’t use drugs is out of fear their parents will find out. It’s analogous to going through a known radar trap while driving. If you know you are going to get caught, you don’t speed. Random drug testing has reduced drug use in the military by 90%, 60-70% in the work place and public schools who have implemented good programs. Some private schools have virtually eliminated drug use by using hair testing, because of the 90 day window of detection and extremely accurate results.
Hair Testing vs Urine or Saliva Tests
Tests were conducted with 774 individuals who provided urine and hair tests simultaneously. The results showed 2.7% of the urine samples showed a positive vs 18% for the hair tests. That is an 85% more accurate result with hair testing. Most drug users know that drugs are excreted from the body within 72 hours, except for marijuana, and are well informed on how to beat the tests. With hair tests, with the 90 day window of detection, they can’t. If they have no head hair, hair can be taken from arms, armpits, legs …. anywhere on the body (excluding private parts) and in this case the tests can reveal drug use for up to one year.
The other advantage of hair testing vs urine is that it is far less intrusive. While onsite urine dip cards or Redi-cups that cost only a few dollars are far less expensive and can be administered in school or at home, a snip of hair about the size of a pencil lead is far more acceptable to many parents and kids who find urine testing demeaning. But, we offer both, as well as saliva tests. Each have a purpose.
For example, it takes roughly one week for drugs to enter the hair particles, so detecting recent use may not be possible. Saliva and urine tests can detect drug use within the last 72 hours, and some tests for many more drugs, including synthetic drugs such as K2, spice and bath salts.
Is Drug Testing Is Expensive?
No, it is about the least expensive life insurance policy one could buy. At the point of writing, we are just getting started. But based on actual experience in years past, local retailers will support the parents and student leaders by offering discounts, and we are working with insurance companies to give discounts on car and health insurance. And, compared to the pain, suffering and cost of addiction to the child, family or society … a stipend to protect them until maturity is nothing.
The TBAC program is based on $65 for a school year for a voluntary Team 21 program which involves a random drug testing program, plus a suspicion based screening program for any child that shows cause for concern. No cost to the schools, but numerous benefits in enhanced academic achievement and sustainable education. The best education is wasted on an addict, and currently with about 30% of high school seniors smoking marijuana, 23% smoking cigarettes of which one-third will ultimately die from it, and roughly 50% consuming alcohol and binge drinking. Spending a few dollars to prevent the disease of addiction from starting is insignificant.
Schools vs Parents – Whose Job Is It?
Clearly, parents have the primary responsibility to get their children safely to adulthood, but schools are vital to protect ALL kids. But they should not have to bear the cost for doing so. And in this current economic environment, there are very few sources in the government to draw from. So the concept here is that funds from the voluntary program, plus fines from those testing positive, will cover the cost. Schools are asked to participate with a policy to test any middle or high school student that shows cause for concern … as they would for any other communicable disease like whooping cough, measles, chicken pox, TB, etc., and for supporting the program they receive $55 of the $65 for the Team 21 program.
CASA (www.casacolumbia.org) research has shown that 44% of kids are at low risk, 19% high risk and 37% at moderate risk of addiction. But, all kids are at risk. In the past 5 years or so, the gang population in America has grown from 850,000 to 1.4 million members, largely controlled by Mexican cartels, targeting younger and younger kids. Parents should not underestimate the competition.
Often, the greatest resistance to drug testing comes from parents in the low risk category, who feel subjecting their child to drug testing is demeaning, and a violation of the trust between parents, schools and the child. Low risk parents normally fall in a category of two biological parents, or one single highly motivated mom or dad, who eat with their children, engage them in conversation, participate in their activities, attend church together, know who their friends are, connect with their friends parents, and know where they are at all times. God bless them for doing so. If all parenting was that good, America wouldn’t be in a state of decline as it is today.
In reality, because parenting isn’t perfect, schools are for all practical purposes the only safety net to protect all kids. America has a 50% divorce rate (devastating for kids), single parenting, two parents working, drug using parents, abusive parents and at last count, 6.1 million kids being raised by parents or in foster homes. Suspicion based testing for any child that shows cause for concern can surface a problem so that parents can be called to action, and where necessary, the school counselors can help fill the deficiency from home. Student Assistance Programs (SAP’s) are extremely important for this purpose. Where none exist, the community (i.e. churches, mentors, Boys and Girls clubs, et al) can kick in to help. Granted, it costs a little. But preventing the loss of a productive life, or a life at all, is far less expensive than failure to do so.
Is Random Drug Testing Legal?
In 2002 there were two landmark decisions by the Supreme Court, Veronia School District vs Acton, and Pottawatomie County, et al. vs Lindsay Earls, that ruled that testing students engaged in extra-curricular activities is constitutional and does not violate the Fourth Amendment banning “unreasonable search and seizure.” That doesn’t mean the ACLU or others won’t challenge it, as they have in California, Washington State and elsewhere. Without engaging in a legal argument, one could safely conclude today, with the statistics of underage smoking 19%, drinking alcohol 48% and using drugs (23%) that there is reasonable cause for suspicion and need for protection. There are roughly one-million gang members in America, many associated with Mexican drug cartels, specifically targeting our youth knowing that if they hook them early, when their bodies and brains are more vulnerable to addiction, they will have a captive market for their insidious products. Hopefully the fact that our Team 21 program is voluntary for parents and kids that want the extra protection or reason to say no to drugs, combined with suspicion based testing at schools if there is cause for concern, will appease the opponents. Schools have a right to mandate random drug testing for athletes and those engaged in extra-curricular activities, since participation in those activities is voluntary. Historically, the biggest adverse reaction to these programs has been the use or urine testing. Hopefully hair and saliva testing will alleviate some of those concerns.
Confidential Nature Of Test Results
On the voluntary program, the results go directly to the parents unless it is school policy to test for those engaged in extra-curricular activities. Results from suspicion based testing will go to the designated School Program Director and then communicated to the parents. In cases of a positive result, the parents and student will be called in to meet with the Program Director to determine a course of action. Preferably the consequences for a positive test will already be in place, and the student will learn to be accountable for his or her own actions.
The records will be destroyed on graduation. Law enforcement will not be involved unless there are other criminal acts involved.
What Drugs Can Be Tested For?
Hair testing is primarily for five drugs: Cocaine, Opiates, PCP, Amphetamines and Marijuana. However, we have urine and saliva tests kits from Redwood Laboratories to test for just about all drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, designer drugs such as Spice and prescription drugs. It takes roughly five days for drugs to get into the hair follicles, and drugs are excreted out of the system within a couple of days. So if there is cause for concern and immediate tests are required, the urine or saliva tests can be used and test for just about any drug.
Can A Student In the Voluntary Program Also Be Tested Based On Suspicion?
Yes! That provides a second layer of protection.
On The Random Testing Program, Can a Student Be Tested More Than Once In a School Year
Yes. The name goes back in the hat (i.e. computer). The main deterrent effect is achieved because of the uncertainty of when a test will take place.
Where Will The Test Be Administered?
That will differ from school to school. Some schools prefer to use outside services, in which case the samples can be taken for them. For urine and saliva tests to check for recent use of drugs, preferably the school will provide a facility and someone (male or female) to help oversee the test. Those details will be worked out with the Agent assigned to the territory.
What About False Positives?
That can happen, more with urine and saliva testing than with hair. In that case, if an on-site test is disputed, a confirmation test can be performed at the laboratory and reviewed by a MRO (Medical Review Officer). If positive, the cost is covered by the student. If the test proves a negative result, an apology will be issued, but rather safe than worry.
Is Drug Testing The Only Remedy to Preventing Drug Use?
Obviously not! Our TBAC 21 Drug-Free Challenge program is based on four primary planks: Education, Getting Drugs Off Campus, Random Drug Testing and Student Assistance Programs (SAP) In addition, we will develop youth programs to encourage and reward drug-free live styles; financial rewards for students; legal defense funds to help schools if challenged; funds for lobbying, et al.