Middle School Drug Testing: Effective Deterrent or Overbearing Policy?

Pre-teens face drug testing once reserved for Olympians or college athletes.

April 8, 2013, 11:52 AM

April 8, 2013— -- It takes more than a quick serve to make the girls' volleyball team at Pleasant Middle School in Marion, Ohio. Before becoming a Lady Spartan, each 12- to 13-year-old must first pass a test they all say is a little embarrassing -- a mandatory drug test.

"It's disgusting," said Alexis Klaiber, one of the volleyball players.

"They tell you to go to the restroom and you come out with a cup and it's just really awkward because other people are standing there," Cammy Creeger said. "You had to walk out and sometimes the guys were there."

Drug testing is mandatory at Pleasant Middle School for any student involved in extracurricular activities. Principal Lane Warner said the school tests for "common street drugs" and alcohol at random, and will pull students out of class for drug testing.

Many students said the process is nerve-wrecking.

"He just called your name so you get so scared you're in trouble," said Brooke Flickinger. "So you start freaking out, it's something else, 'OK what have I done that I could get in trouble for?'"

Random drug testing, once reserved for Olympic, college and high school athletes, has become a fact of life for hundreds of kids in their early teens, even pre-teen years, in the United States. Today, school districts in at least nine states require middle school students to undergo drug tests.

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Some Lady Spartans at Pleasant Middle School said they thought the drug testing was a good thing.

"I think it's helping to stop [drug use]," Creeger said.

"Because they know they are not going to be eligible for sports," Flickinger said.

But when Alexis Kiederer tried to join her middle school scrapbooking club in Milford, Pa., where drug tests are required for students who want to participate in extracurricular activities, her parents pushed back. They would not give permission for their daughters to take the drug tests, which meant she also couldn't play school sports.

"That was difficult because I wasn't able to play with some of the girls I've been playing with for years, and to be able to make new friendships, gain more experience," Alexis said.

Alexis and her younger sister Meghan were forced to sit out all after-school activities at Delaware Valley Middle School, while their parents took school officials to court. The girls' mother, Kathy Kiederer, said it was worth taking a stand, even if it meant her daughters couldn't participate in the clubs and sports they loved.

"I get that it's easy to pee in a cup, but giving up your constitutional rights just because you can doesn't mean you should," Kiederer said.

Back at Pleasant Middle School, Principal Warner said he believes the mandatory drug testing rule gives students a strong reason to refuse drugs and alcohol under peer pressure. But the bigger concern, he said, is the stories he said he has heard about what some kids are bringing to school.

"Little things that they hide drugs in [and] they carry around with them that look like a normal highlighter-- It was very eye-opening to see that there are so many ways out there," Warner said. "I would like to think it's not a big issue, but I think that's naïve. Kids are exposed to everything."

He said kids in his school district don't have to work hard to get drugs.

"Heroin is making a big comeback, it's becoming more popular," Warner said. "It's one of those things that is not extraordinarily expensive, for the user to get, it's pretty accessible."

Warner said random drug testing is working, and there has been just one positive test in six years.

But Pleasant Middle School only tests student athletes -- kids who have big incentives not to get caught.

"Does that mean that every kid is identified or kids are getting away with it? I don't think it means that, it means, in a large part, it's effective," he said. "Parents who have spoken to me about it have always been positive about it... they want to know-- 'if my kids using, I want to know about it.'"

But even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled random drug testing for high school athletes is constitutional, the Kiederers won an injunction that prevented Delaware Valley Middle School from enforcing the policy. It mean Alexis and Meghan Kiederer were allowed to play again, while the issue went to Pennsylvania's Supreme Court.

"Clubs or after-school activities are normally a way for kids to not be involved in drugs," Kathy Kiederer said. "It gives them something to do after school versus going home to an empty house and maybe getting into things they shouldn't be getting into."

Kiederer argued there are better ways to teach children about drugs.

"Throwing up the barrier of having to be drug tested for it might prevent those kids from even trying out," she said.

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