Back To School Checklist 2019: Backpack, Lunchbox, and a Drug Test?

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Thirteen-year-old Aura Brillhart and her 11-year-old sister, Morgan, will face a new sort of test in school this year: a drug test.

The middle and high schools in their community of Fort Scott, Kan., are among the latest to require random drug testing of students who want to participate in sports, clubs, dances or any other extracurricular activities.

“I hate that it’s even an issue for us to have to address,” said their mom, Jody Hoener. “But putting our heads in the sand isn’t going to make things any better.”

Fort Scott and the Bushland Independent School District near Amarillo, Texas, join the growing number of communities across America testing kids as young as 11 for illicit drug use. Nationally, a federal government survey shows, nearly 38% of school districts had such policies in 2016, up from a quarter of districts a decade earlier.

But over that time, the number of schools employing other drug prevention strategies dropped. The latest School Health Policies and Practices Study shows that a declining number of districts require elementary schools to teach drug and alcohol prevention, have arrangements with off-site organizations to provide drug treatment and provide funding for professional development on drug prevention.

The rise in drug testing is a reaction to the still-raging opioid epidemic and liberalized marijuana laws spreading across the country, according to health experts and educators. “The biggest fear is that legalization will lead to more teen use,” said Dr. Paul Glaser, a child psychiatry professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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