Should Student Athletes Be Drug-Tested?

Story by Ava Schrage, Staff Writer

Playing any type of sport in high school can require a lot of hard work and effort, between long practices, games, and budgeting your time. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, roughly 55% of all high school students participate in at least one sport. These athletes are very important figures in any given high school because they set examples as leaders by representing their school. According to a 2015 story in The New York Times, people who play high school sports get better jobs with higher pay, as sports teach students many valuable life skills such as perseverance and determination. However, student-athletes who take illegal substances can obliterate this entire image of a high school athlete and cause all of their effort to mean nothing. Because of their roles as leaders, they can also influence others to go down this path. According to studies conducted by The Recovery Village, a drug abuse awareness organization, nearly a fourth of all high school students do at least one type of illicit drug, most popularly marijuana, which has increased through the past few years. However, these numbers could decrease drastically if athletes were to be drug tested in high schools.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 18% of public high schools, almost 1 in 5, have mandatory drug testing policies that apply to athletes. These schools that have these policies of in-school drug testing of students involved in extracurricular activities have reported significantly less substance use compared to schools without drug testing. According to a 2010 study by The Institute of Education Sciences, “sixteen percent of students subject to drug testing reported using substances covered by their district’s testing program in the past 30 days, compared to twenty-two percent of comparable students in schools without the program.”

Now, some schools question the legality of random in-school drug testing due to the suspicion of it being a violation of privacy. However, in June of 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court found that this is not a violation, and they ruled to allow high schools to conduct these random drug tests.

Another concern that may be apparent is how much of a cost drug testing students might be, as drug tests can be anywhere between $15 to $35 per test. However, due to the elevated use of drugs in schools, as well as the growth of drug testing in schools, many government grants have been created, such as funding by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which provides financial support for schools to have random drug testing.

In 2012, Limestone Community High School in Illinois decided to start drug testing students involved in athletics after they noticed a drug-related issue arising among athletes. After the testing policy was added, the school found that the percent of drug-positive results decreased significantly over time. Additionally, similar results were found in Dalton High School of Dalton, Georgia after a drug program was approved that required students to take a drug test in order for them to participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports and clubs.

Overall, drug tests have been proven to be a simple, effective way to decrease the number of students who take illegal drugs.