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Tonsorial Testing for Students

Students at Rockhurst High School in Kansas will have a new test which they must take on demand. Christa Dubill, reporting for 41Action News, that “approximately 60 strands of hair will be cut from the selected students' heads or bodies (private areas excluded) and sent off for testing by a company called Psychemedics. A staff member at Rockhurst is a barber and will be handling the hair collection.” The hairs will be tested for a “variety of substances over the previous 90 days, including cocaine, PCP, opiates, methamphetamine, marijuana and binge alcohol.”

School officials stressed that the point of the policy is not punishment. Rockhurst Principal Greg Harkness said: “Our point is, if we do encounter a student who has made some bad decisions with drugs or alcohol, we will be able to intervene, get the parents involved, get him help if necessary, and then help him get back on a path of better decision making, healthier choices for his life.” The guidance counselor is the only one to know outside the parents. It is recorded in the student’s guidance file. But all guidance files are destroyed upon graduation. The student is then retested after 90 days to see if they have remained drug-free.

Officials also made clear that this decision to begin testing for the 2013-2014 school year was not caused by past incidents of problems with drugs. The drugs that are being targeted are those that are a problem across the nation.

What officials have found is many students think everyone is doing drugs and so it must be appropriate or a benefit for me to do so. Teenagers are in a process of transforming from children to adults and do not reveal everything to mom and/or dad. There is a huge amount of press given to decriminalization and legalization of marijuana and its medicinal use. There has also been a lot of new research on the development of the brain during adolescence. The brain is more susceptible to addiction. Finally, in the age of the Internet, where formerly a teenager would have 5 or so friends whom you saw on a daily basis, now it is 700+ through social media. Those friends opportunity to influence is quite large. And no parent or authority can monitor or raise counter questions.

So a blanket test, everyone at some point, must be taken to protect and help students who may have taken on more than they thought. But what about the right of privacy or the ability of law enforcement officials to subpoena the test results before the student graduates? The concerns are very personal. The desire to protect the students from potential harm, the necessity of treatment if harm occurs is a valid concern. But perhaps being a hair’s breadth away from being found positive will strengthen all students to “Just Say No!”

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