Student Well-Being

Parent Enthusiasm Leads District to Expand Drug-Test Program

By Ross Brenneman — November 29, 2012 1 min read

Four years ago, Santa Clarita Valley, Calif., created a program that doled out student drug tests, yet not exactly at random. Only students formally enrolled in the program can be tested.

But here’s the rub: The program asks parents—nature’s buzzkills—to sign up their own children.

So many parents have been interested in catching their red-eyed offspring “friending Mary Jane” that the school district is looking to expand participation by 3 percent annually, according to the Los Angeles Times.

So far, parents have enrolled just under 2,000 students in the district’s Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Reduction and Education program. Students don’t get a say in the matter; if a pupil doesn’t comply with a CADRE test, parents are notified.

“It was my decision,” Elaine Bogart, one such parent, said. Teenagers “do have some rights, but I’m responsible for them. I need to make sure they’re safe.”

What actual rights students have in this program aren’t clear, but the judicial track records suggests there’s not much of a way out for those high off the Acapulco Gold. In the 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case Board of Education v. Earls, random drug-testing for students in extracurricular activities runs consistent with the Fourth Amendment. So it wouldn’t be a major logical strain to see that concept extended.

But the Bill of Rights groupies American Civil Liberties Union remains skeptical of such random drug-testing. In 2011, they supported students who objected to being tested in order to participate in school-sponsored activities. In that case, Benjamin Brown, et al. v. Shasta Union High School District, the sides settled following a court injunction. How the judiciary would actually rule in any case brought against Santa Clarita—especially when the policy comes at the behest of parents—is unknown.

So far, 63 district students have tested positive for some kind of drug, most commonly marijuana.

Those students will spend the rest of their days munching on cheesy poofs and, as Saturday Night Live’s Matt Foley would put it, “living in a van, down by the river.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.