"Psychemedics is looking for new markets and given the down economy, it doesn't surprise me that they are targeting private schools," Armentano said. "But I'm sure this principal is being sold a bill of goods."
"Research indicates that hair testing for drugs may be more sensitive on the hair of people with darker pigmentation. There have been allegations of an inherent bias in the test."
Paul Armentano of NORML.Annette Fuentes, investigative reporter and author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, writes about the random, suspicionless drug testing program at St. Michael's High School at the Huffington Post:
When St. Michael's High School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, sent out a letter in February about a proposed random drug testing program for next school year, it ignited a controversy among parents at the private school. School President Marcia Sullivan and Principal Sam Govea, the driving force behind drug testing, wrote that "while we don't believe heavy drug use is widespread on our campus, we know some of our students are experimenting with or using illegal drugs. Our position is if even one of our students is using drugs, then we have a drug problem and need to implement a safety net for our kids."
The whole idea came out of left field to Kimberly Hamerdinger, whose two kids attend St. Mike's, as the Catholic institution is known. Worse, the letter had stated administrators were "considering" drug testing, but the truth was they'd already decided to go forward with it. No simple urinalysis, St. Mike's is contracting with Psychemedics, a Massachusetts-based company that has patented a panel of drug tests using hair samples. Shaved heads? No problem. Arm hair, leg hair and pubic hair will do.
She was outraged enough to start a blog about drug testing students in order to educate parents and document the research she uncovered.
"I have a strong belief in personal liberty and responsibility and this just violates the core tenets of what I believe in," Hamerdinger told me in a phone interview. "And when I started to look into the issue, I was surprised at what I found. I had no idea there were so many adolescent experts opposed to drug testing in schools. Then I stumbled upon a lot of research, people questioning the effectiveness. It shocked me that the school would pursue a program like this in light of what is compelling information that this doesn't work, and it isn't good for kids."
Those experts include the American Academy of Pediatrics, whose Committee on Substance Abuse and Council on School Health issued a joint policy statement in 2007 vehemently opposed to any kind of random drug testing program in schools. It stated in part: "there is little evidence of the effectiveness of school-based drug testing in the scientific literature..." As a deterrent to drug use, testing is a non-starter. As a complex lab procedure, it's also difficult to carry out reliably. And hair testing, even more than your basic pee-in-the-cup drug test, is highly suspect, the policy stated: "validity has not been firmly established. Questions remain regarding how passive exposure to drugs as well as differences among races and sexes can affect hair testing."
Paul Armentano of NORML, the marijuana law reform organization, told me the research indicates that hair testing for drugs may be more sensitive on the hair of people with darker pigmentation. "There have been allegations of an inherent bias in the test," he said.
Read the rest of the article here: Santa Fe School's Drug Testing is Negative for Many Parents.