The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


August 12, 2013

A Don McCormack column: While noble in concept, school districts already have enough on their plates

The fact the Struthers school district will be testing student-athletes for drugs beginning with the upcoming school year may seem to be a radical step around these parts, but in truth, the concept is anything but trendsetting nationally.

In fact, in the early 1990s, many school districts across the country began to kick the tires on drug testing as a way  to try and combat drug and alcohol abuse by the young people who make up their district.

As expected, that idea led to what often happens — legal action.

In two United States Supreme Court cases — in 1995 and 2002 — the court upheld the constitutionality of testing  student-athletes for drugs and alcohol to include all students who participate in a particular competitive extracurricular activity.

In both of its rulings, he court said deterring drug or alcohol abuse was more important than privacy.

Fair enough.

But the elephant in the room is this question — does it work?

Reverse effect?

The University of Michigan tackled the subject head on, conducting a comprehensive study of the concept of high schools testing student-athletes for drugs and alcohol in 2003.

That groundbreaking study concluded that, believe it or not, at school districts that had testing policies in place, the percentage of student-athletes testing positive was slightly higher than those without policies in place.

The conclusions of the study showed that 21 percent of student-athletes were using drugs or alcohol — compared to 19 percent at districts without policies.

Those results were confirmed by a study conducted by the National Center for Educational Evaluation.

Gender issues

A more recent study, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, concluded that policies testing for drugs or alcohol did not stop male student-athletes from using either.

The same study concluded having testing policies in place on served as a deterrent for female student-athletes in districts that boasted of positive student-educator relationships and clearcut rules.

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