Leila May was drug-tested once as a fifth-grader, once again as a sixth-grader, and then three time during her seventh-grade year.
It wasn’t because the straight-A student was suspected of anything — just that her number came up more than a few times as part of Susquenita Middle School’s random drug testing it administers to all students as early as grade five who participate in extracurricular activities (and who want parking permits), according to PennLive.
Well, this past year — her eighth-grade year, and last at the Duncannon, Pennsylvania, school just north of Harrisburg — Leila’s parents had enough.
They wouldn’t sign a permission slip allowing yet another “embarrassing” urine test on their daughter (all her previous tests came back negative).
But that decision came with a big price: Leila couldn’t be part of the National Junior Honor Society.
“We were so tired of this happening over and over again, so we said ‘what can we do to make it stop?’” Melinda May told PennLive. “It’s sad that this is what we had to resort to. It’s ridiculous.”
Michael May added that he and his wife “went to the principal, school board, superintendent — they’re all lame on this issue. We even contacted the ACLU. They said it was concerning, but sadly, legal.”
As you might image, the Mays aren’t the only family fed up with the Susquenita district’s policy targeting students so young.
Kristin Cassell’s daughter, Natalie — who just completed the fifth grade at the middle school — was tested three times last school year. Natalie, 10, endured the tests due to her involvement in the Family and Consumer Science Club.
“I don’t think its necessary for fifth and sixth grades,” Cassell told PennLive. “I told the superintendent, ‘if you see signs, red glassy eyes, a stupor, then I could see testing. It’s too much. (My daughter) is 10-years-old.”
Cassell said she recently spoke with Superintendent Kent Smith about the issue but said he wasn’t considering changing the policy, noting that he believes it’s a deterrent to drug use and that his own children are subject to the same random drug-testing.
“I told (Smith) to tell me that (Natalie) wouldn’t be tested again,” Cassell told PennLive. “He said, ‘No, I cannot guarantee that.’ That’s why I am making an issue of it.”
A computer algorithm randomly chooses students for drug testing, Smith said, according to PennLive, adding that a student could be tested as many as four times in a school year.
Adopted in 2002, policy 227.1 doesn’t employ specific language indicating that middle schoolers — grades five through eight at Susquenita — will be tested, but Smith indicated to TheBlaze on Wednesday that it automatically applies since middle school is when extracurriculars are first offered to students once they hit the fifth grade.
More from PennLive:
Schools can administer drug tests on kids participating in sports and other activities outside of the classroom because they are considered privileges, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
Recent court cases have shown that a district must prove there is a need, such as evidence of a drug-use problem among its broader student population, before it can test the entire student body, said Steve Robinson, spokesman for the PSBA.
Details of Susquenita’s full and partial drug screenings, noted PennLive:
- A full screen costs the district $45 per test and detect the use of amphetamines (including ecstasy), barbiturates, benzodiazipine, marijuana, cocaine, methadone, methqualone, opiates (including heroin and crack), PCP and propoxyphene. Testing for marijuana, PCP, amphetamines, cocaine and opiates is considered a priority.
- A partial screen costs $21.25 per test and detects the use of amphetamines (including ecstasy), barbiturates, marijuana, cocaine and opiates (including heroin and crack).
- Students selected for the urine tests are notified in person by the principal or designee and are escorted/transported to and from the test site by school officials.
- Parents/guardians can join their children at the testing site but must remain in the waiting room during testing.
The school board held a meeting Tuesday night in which the issue was discussed. PennLive noted that Smith and board president Dr. Michael Jones disagreed about the possible future of the drug-testing policy; Jones said the board might discuss exempting a student like Cassell from being tested more than a certain number of times per year while Smith said such a move would cease keeping the testing truly random