In one Texas school district, seventh graders looking to join the chess team will now need to make sure they test clean for alcohol and cannabis. Bushland Independent School District officials say that the decision to enforce mandatory drug testing for seventh to 12th graders hoping to participate in extracurriculars is not to combat a pre-existing drug problem, but rather to prevent kids from trying drugs in the first place.
“The board wants to be proactive,” Bushland superintendent Chris Wigington told a local ABC affiliate. “They want our kids to have a drug free environment, we want our kids to make great decisions.” He told reporters that he considers extracurricular activities to be students’ “privileges not rights.”
The decision goes against the advice of many educational and civil rights organizations. The National Education Association has stated that such mandatory drug and alcohol testing is “an unwarranted and unconstitutional invasion of privacy.” The American Academy of Pediatrics has also cautioned against the practice, citing “deterioration in the student-school relationship, confidentiality of students’ medical records, and mistakes in interpreting drug tests that can result in false-positive results.” The ACLU is likewise opposed.
Many of those groups have noted that participating in extracurriculars is a proven method to keep kids off drugs.
The change to Bushland’s policy comes at a time when Texas is slowly reconfiguring its legal attitudes towards cannabis. Last month, Tarrant County dismissed over 200 marijuana-related misdemeanors, arguing that the state’s recent legalization of hemp and CBD products made previous drug tests that were unable to tell the difference between marijuana and hemp-related products, unreliable. There is also a bill that would expand the state’s medical-marijuana program working its way through the Texas senate.
Nonetheless, Bushland students will be required to sign a consent form and pass a saliva or urine-based drug test on any of 10 dates throughout the school year if they hope to take part in football, theater, cheerleading, cross country, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, track, power-lifting, chess, band, choir, debate, gaming club, yearbook, and student council, according to the district’s official policy.
The drugs the district will be testing for may include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, heroin, and opiates.
Should they decline to be tested, students will be subject to the same repercussions as a positive drug test. Not only will they be benched from the aforementioned activities, but they will also be ineligible to receive a parking permit at their school, and the results will “affect a student’s participation” in school social events.
Students will have two school days after learning of a positive test in which they will be able to provide a doctor’s note explaining their exposure to the drug.
Positive test results will not result in “disciplinary sanctions or academic penalties,” according to the district, and will only be disclosed to the student’s family and district officials. The District shall not release statistics regarding the rate of positive drug tests to any person or organization without the District’s consent or unless required by law,” says official policy.
“Great kids make bad decisions every day and what we want to do is make sure that our kids have the opportunity to make mistakes but come back and make amends,” said Wigington.