District seeks data on random student drug testing

Athletic Trainer Gini Fite addresses more than 100 in attendance during a March community engagement event regarding the idea of random student drug testing. The Smithville School District is compiling information from other state districts with policies in place to determine if testing decreases student drug use.

SMITHVILLE — Superintendent Todd Schuetz and the Smithville School District are compiling information from Missouri districts that implemented random student drug testing in their schools to determine a policy to recommend to the school board for future implementation. This process followed research conducted by an education research firm that resulted in inconclusive data on the effectiveness of student drug testing to curb drug use among students.

Data on effectiveness of student drug testing is hard to quantify, Schuetz said during a July board meeting. He attributed that fact to a multitude of variables including districts having differing policies and numbers of students to test.

“Getting involved in this policy, if the board were to move forward and have no research to support that kind of practice, it’s a little bit scary for me,” Schuetz said.

To cultivate data on the effectiveness of random student drug testing, Schuetz first utilized Education Advisory Board, a district-contracted research firm, to compile data and report findings to district leadership. Research from EAB focused on reviewing literature on random drug testing at the middle and high school levels.

“Studies exploring the effectiveness of random drug testing have produced mixed results,” the study states.

Looking at middle and high school drug testing and illicit drug use, the study reviewed 14 years of national data. EAB found testing was associated with “moderately lower marijuana use” but could not correlate testing with decreased use of other drugs.

“It was good to have some experts take a look,” Schuetz said.

In the end, EAB reported that research suggests student drug testing should not be the only strategy for minimizing substance use in students and that improving school climate is vital to success of any prevention program.

With inconclusive results reported by the firm, Schuetz looked into alternative ways to collect data.

“Districts in our state are doing this, let’s ask them,” he said.

A survey was created and sent to about five dozen Missouri districts with student drug testing policies. Responses came from 37 districts ranging in size from large, like Jefferson City, to small, like Holden.

“By far, the majority find that their policy is effective,” said Schuetz.

There were two key survey questions Schuetz used to determine effectiveness. The first asked districts if testing had a positive, negative or zero impact on drug use since its implementation. Of the 37 districts that responded, 76.32% reported a positive impact. The remaining 23.68% reported no impact.

The other key question Schuetz highlighted asked districts, on a scale of zero to 10 with zero being no impact, to rate the level of impact testing had on curbing student drug use. The average response number was 5.65.

Remaining survey data was to be publicly presented during the next board meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, at district office, 655 S. Commercial Ave.

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.

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