All students are familiar with the pressures of testing at school; for better or for worse some tests can have a gross influence upon a person’s future. The same can be said of Olympic athletes who must undergo testing for illegal performance enhancing substances. We debate whether drug testing should be introduced in schools.
In 2004 Tony Blair caused a stir by publically advocating the use of random drug testing and sniffer dog searches in state schools. In 1999 a survey of Headmasters and found that random drug searches were used in nearly three-quarters of private schools. More recently, the 2011 Education Bill has given teachers in the UK the power to search the bags of students for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, mobile phones, pornography and any other materials prohibited by the school. Some might support these policies by claiming that they are for the good of the school and the students themselves; but is compulsory drug testing an invasion of privacy?
People who are anti-drugs testing would say so. Many people might feel that being randomly searched or tested for drugs is both embarrassing and a violation of trust. “It creates a barrier, it creates a divide between students and us,” said one teacher from an Eastbourne secondary school. It is possible that imposing compulsory drug testing on students might make them feel they are not trusted, making them less likely to in turn trust teachers. This in turn could lead to pejoration in their behaviour. It could also be argued that heavy users will use drugs regardless. Another concern is that drug testing results could be unreliable, especially if random. For example cannabis can stay in your system for a few days to a month, whilst harder drugs such as cocaine can be metabolised in less than 24 hours. Furthermore, with random testing it is possible that one time users will be caught, whilst frequent users escape.
The counter argument to this is that any use of drugs is wrong, particularly in young adolescents. “If I was a parent, I’d want my child to be safe at school,” another teacher explained. Many would take the view point that drug testing is for the best; non-users should consent because they have nothing to hide, and those who are using drugs should be given adequate treatment. “I think you have to take the view that it’s a welfare issue and not a scary imitation tactic” said one teacher interviewed. A senior staff member stated, “I’m all for drug testing in a whole picture of health”.
The overall consensus seems to be that drug testing and searches could, in some cases, be beneficial in schools. Perhaps, if targeted, they could serve as a means of offering long term assistance and rehabilitation to students who are using drugs, and serve as preventative measures for those who aren’t. However, any drug testing or searching would need to be treated with caution in order to uphold privacy and trust.
This article was written as part of a two-day activity at Sussex Downs College, where students with the best articles were rewarded with the chance of being published on SQ Magazine.