Drug Policy

School Drug Testing All Its Students Censors 'Seditious' Dissent



What can a high school principal do to keep the public relations train chugging toward disaster when he's already adopted the ethically questionable policy of mandatory drug testing for an entire student body? By censoring a student who calls instead for a policy of greater accountability and personal responsibility, of course. That's what the administrators of St. Ignatius High School (SIHS) in Cleveland, Ohio did this week.

As a recap, SIHS and two other Catholic schools recently teamed up with Psychemedics Corporation to drug test all their students–about 1,450 at SIHS alone and nearly 3,000 total. The schools issued contradictory statements about whether or not there's actually a drug problem, but assured that the policy was for student safety. It's pure coincidence, administrators insisted when asked by alt-weekly Cleveland Scene, that Psychemedics CEO Raymond Kubacki is part of SIHS's old boys' network, is the brother of one of the other school's principals, and has explicitly stated that high schools are his new target since workplace drug testing is waning. Reason covered more details on the situation here.

Dissenting students were disenfranchised by Cleveland's only major paper, the Plain Dealer, which exclusively quoted to pupils who were hand-picked by administrators and just happened to think drug testing is cool.

This left a bad taste in the mouth of SIHS senior Benjamin Seeley, who wrote a critical article intended for his school paper. Here's an excerpt:

The school should not assume responsibility for student health; that is the place of parents. The initiative shows signs of noble intent, but it wasn't necessary in the first place. If the school is concerned about drugs, and feels oversight is the only solution, it should recommend parents themselves administer the tests….

A study by the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center found that instituting mandatory random drug tests in high schools had no impact on student drug use for males… and that the testing worked only to further the divide between administration and student.

Seeley also suggested that kids will stop using harmless drugs like marijuana and in favor of alcohol, since it won't show up on the test. He concluded by calling upon his classmates to "demand that the school offer worthy explanations to you for their choice of drug-tester, and a response to why substantive pieces of evidence against drug testing were ultimately tossed out" and that they should "refuse to be made pawns of."

Proving that it could alienate itself from the students in other ways, the SIHS administration reportedly blocked the publication of Seeley's article for being "seditious." So, Scene published it instead.

Seeley's compatriots are in a difficult situation. They do have the option of leaving their private institution. The Supreme Court has affirmed Fourth Amendment rights and limits drug testing in public schools, but given the caliber of Cleveland's public education it's highly unlikely any SIHS student will make that move. And, having a bad alternative doesn't negate the fact that their privacy is still being curtailed and their once-presumed innocence replaced by Psychemedics' lab results.

It's a shame to see a crop of thousands of teenagers needlessly roped into the war on drugs. If nothing else, the experience will hopefully teach them just how ineffective, unsettlingly invasive, and common sense-defying these kinds of policies and their proponents are. 

NEXT: Vid: The Fight for Medical Marijuana in Minnesota

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Coincidentally, Warty went to this high school, which is why they instituted rape testing. This is just a natural progression from that, so, as always, blame Warty.

    1. Everyone I’ve ever met who went to Ignatius has been a gigantic asshole of the entitled rich kid variety. They could use a little rape.

      1. See? See?!?

      2. That was known as “seasoning” at my alma mater. And you were a better man for it!

  2. Is that a recruiting poster? Where do I go to sign up?

  3. “This left a bad taste in the mouth of SIHS senior Benjamin Seeley,…”

    [Insert urinalysis joke here.]

  4. Surely there are other private schools in the area?

    1. I think there’s 5 or 6 private high schools around here, and three of them are doing this ridiculous hair testing.

  5. Fail to see the libertarian angle here. Private school. No government censorship. Unless “drugs” are now an issue in and of themselves. Or “teenagers.” Hey, what’s reason’s interest in drug-using teenagers?

    1. Our absurd national fear of drugs is every bit as much worth bitching about as any government stupidity. Retard.

      1. The # of comments on this thread suggest otherwise.

    2. It’s pure coincidence, administrators insisted when asked by alt-weekly Cleveland Scene, that Psychemedics CEO Raymond Kubacki is part of SIHS’s old boys’ network, is the brother of one of the other school’s principals, and has explicitly stated that high schools are his new target since workplace drug testing is waning.

      What is wrong with a little cronyism, as long as it is FOR THE CHILLLLDRUNZ!

      1. There are better uses for the money, and it tends to cast doubt on the real motives of the administrator.

        1. Maybe we need to call the Bishop of Cleveland and tell him to get a handle on this. Another scandal is the last thing he needs right now.

  6. Did they discipline the student, or just tell the school paper not to publish his article?

    1. The school paper *did* post a YouTube video of student reactions – the first student was against, the other 2 were for.

      And check out the ties.


  7. From one of the comments at the Scene.

    I understand the privacy concerns, but we’re talking about illegal activities here. This isn’t about who has a comic book collection, this is about who is breaking the law and smoking or using illegal drugs.

    This is why we’re doomed.

    1. Then you first, motherfucker. Drug test, tax audit, browser history, etc… because this is about who is breaking the law!

    2. We have people whose job it is to enforce the law, they’re called police, and there are limits to what they can do.

      The school is not required by law to test for drugs, nor is it liable for its students’ drug use, so “drugs are illegal mmkay” is not a meaningful justification for the policy.

  8. Private institution, don’t care.

    OTOH, I feel their pain on the lack of free market choices in education. I’ll be moving before next school year. When I looked up the 2 private schools in that area online for my daughter, all I could learn about them is that they’re “Christ centered education”. No Idea about curricula, test scores, or anything else. I’m going to call but here’s how I imagine the conversation

    Me. What are the advantages of your school over state school?

    Them. We have Bible study.

    Me. You want $450 a month for bible study?

    Them. (Blank stare)

    1. Maybe some of them do that. But I know overall, the evangelical schools don’t have worse scores than the public schools.

      Because if the scores were worse, it would be front-page news.

      So I wish you the best!

      1. I’m sure you’re right. I’ve coached football and baseball at 2 Christian schools, and the kids all seem to test well, and do good in college. My major concern is curriculum. I’m worried that they will teach my kids statist history and economics more than anything else.

        1. a fear of statist education is valid, and is why I pay for my grandchildren to attend a Christian school, pre-K to 12. At their yearly fund raising dinner, of course they mentioned being Christian based, but also showed a video of one of the high school teachers leading a classroom discussion of Ayn Rand, where she was right and also where she was wrong. Despite what the Progs say about Christian, they were stressing how they teach critical thinking.

  9. since workplace drug testing is waning.

    Citation needed.

    1. It’s there, if you bothered to look. 29% of surveyed organizations in 2011 don’t drug test, up from 21% in 2010.

      Aren’t you just the budding scholar?

  10. Dissenting students were disenfranchised

    What do you think “disenfranchised” means?

    All students in public schools are disenfranchised at all times.

  11. A private school can’t censor anything. Fail.

    1. Sure they can. Whether it is aggressive to do so requires a bit of analysis. Whether it’s ever appropriate to do so is a clear no.

  12. I live about a block from the Psychemedics building in Culver City. i think I’ll walk my dog over there tonight to leave some testing material on their doorstep.

  13. Wait, wait, wait. “Sedition”? Bzuh?

    1. Yup. This “teacher” needs to be beaten about the head and shoulders with a dictionary. I read the entire OpEd. Nothing seditious about it.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.