Cleveland High Schools Begin Mandatory Drug Testing Next Year

By McCarton Ackerman 04/29/14

Three Catholic high schools have declared their intention to drug test students despite the controversy surrounding the tactic and the failure of other such testing programs.

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Three Catholic high schools in the Cleveland area are generating controversy by announcing that all their students will be required to undergo mandatory drug testing in the fall.

Gilmour Academy, St. Edward, and St. Ignatius high schools all made the announcements in special assemblies earlier this week and notified parents via e-mail. The drug testing will be done via hair follicle analysis, which can detect drug use from up to three months back. Periodic drug testing will be conducted throughout the year afterwards.

School administrators said the timing of the announcement was intentional in order to give students the chance to stop using over the summer. First time offenses will result in counseling and treatment.

“This is not designed to be a punitive program,” read an e-mail to parents from St. Ignatius. “It’s designed as a proactive prevention and intervention strategy. By identifying students at risk, we can work with parents and health professionals to get them the help they need and re-direct their path.”

School officials cited the current heroin epidemic in Northeast Ohio as the impetus for the testing, but it has already been occurring in other schools throughout the state. St. John’s Jesuit High School & Academy in Toledo began testing students in the fall of 2012, while the Boardman school district is considering drug testing for any student who drives to school or is on a sports team.

Similar drug testing programs in other states have proven to be a bust. The three public high schools in Edmond, OK, drug tested 750 students involved in extracurricular activities over the last year and recorded only eight positive tests, or just over one percent. However, the town has avoided being punitive with the program. The results are never turned over to law enforcement officials and once a student graduates or leaves the school district, their drug test information is destroyed.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.