Lake Highland fights drugs with tests

Orlando Sentinel's Beth Kassab talks with FOX35 about drug testing at Lake Highland Prep.

Most schools have a drug problem, and private schools are no different.

Private schools often get a worse rap because kids with money can buy the really potent stuff.

Lake Highland Preparatory isn't being specific about student drug use other than to say "surveys and other indicators" show a "small group" is using.

Vagaries aside, school administrators recognized they had a problem. And they're doing something big about it.

In the fall, the school will drug test all 1,200 students in seventh through 12th grade.

That takes guts and resolve.

Administrators knew there would be blow-back from parents and the community about student privacy and the pointlessness of drug testing as a deterrent.

Privacy's not the point here. We're talking about teenagers. At a private school.

Parents who don't like it can send their children elsewhere. The school is entitled to conduct universal drug testing just as many companies drug test employees before they're hired. Some continue to test them after they're on the job.

You can put your pocket Constitution away. When it comes to drug testing, the Fourth Amendment applies to government invasions on our private lives — not snooping by private schools or private companies.

And even public schools have wide latitude to drug test students nowadays. Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions have made clear that public school administrators can require drug tests for students who participate in extracurricular activities.

I'd like to see more public schools drug test students. If not for the cost, more probably would.

Because besides guts, this kind of program also takes money.

Lake Highland's program will cost $39 per student, or about $50,000. An anonymous private donor is picking up the tab for now — another benefit of the private-school world.

But is it worth all the expense?

Some studies say drug testing doesn't make a difference on student drug use.

Other reports say the testing does lead to fewer students, especially fewer girls, experimenting with pot and harder drugs.

Lake Highland administrators said they talked with other private schools across the country and all said drug testing worked in reducing drug use.

"Some said they had gained a reputation of being a school with a lot of drugs and drug testing turned their reputation around completely," said Kathy Taylor, special assistant to the school president.

Lake Highland is emphasizing that the testing isn't punitive.

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