When school officials thought a 12-year-old student didn’t smell quite right, they pulled her out of class. She was then subjected to a test that some say is grossly “inappropriate.” Her mom found out and was fuming mad. But, should she be?
Alyssa Burk was in class at Century Middle School in Thornton, Colorado, when administrators walked in and asked the 12-year-old to come with them. After pulling Alyssa out of class, school officials asked if they could talk to her. The middle schooler agreed, asking if she was in trouble. She wasn’t, but administrators were concerned about the way she smelled.
“They were saying, ‘You smell like marijuana,'” Alyssa recalled. According to the 6th-grader, she was then told, “We’re just going to test you real quick and see if you’re smoking it.” Alyssa complied with the test, which came back negative, and apparently, she didn’t think much more of it because she didn’t mention it to her mom until days later.
“We were driving home and she told me they pulled her out of class because she smelled like marijuana,” Alyssa’s mom, Amber, explained. “Then, she goes, ‘It’s OK, Mom. I passed my test.’ And, I said, ‘What test?'” After finding out that the school had given Alyssa a drug test, the mom was mad. She called her father, who is Alyssa’s other guardian, and asked if he had been made aware. He wasn’t.
“Not only did they do it without consent, but they didn’t call back and say, ‘Hey, by the way, this is what happened today at school.’ And, I think they should have,” the Brighton mother said. Unfortunately for her, district policy allows the school to perform the test without parental consent. But, the policy also states “attempts will be made to contact parents prior to the administration of sobriety tests.”
Acknowledging their failure to notify Alyssa’s parents, the Adams 12 Five Star Schools apologized for that mistake, but not for performing the test. “In this situation, the school did not contact the guardian in the primary household prior to the administration of the test,” a school spokesman admitted in a statement to Fox31.
The school, however, is standing by the testing. “We strive to keep schools safe and drug-free. If a student is suspected of being under the influence of a controlled substance, trained school staff may administer tests to determine if the student is under the influence,” the spokesman said.
“Failure [of the parent or guardian] to grant permission to participate in or allow tests does not prohibit administrators from proceeding with the test when reasonable suspicion exists,” the school furthered.
Amber received an email from the school’s principal, promising to be more up-front with parents in the future. While she’s happy about that, she still seems upset that students can be subjected to drug testing at school without parental consent.
“I think that’s good. I like that result,” Amber said, referring to the apology. As for the district’s policy, she’s concerned other parents are unaware of it. “I just want people to know this is not OK,” she said. “I’m not OK with it.”
Many agreed with Amber, calling the drug test a violation of constitutional rights and unlawful search and seizure. Education, however, is not a “fundamental right” under the U.S. Constitution, where it isn’t even mentioned at all. Instead, the 10th Amendment gives the powers to the States or the people.
The 14th Amendment also applies, restricting public schools from denying access based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or economic status. This does not, however, forbid drug testing, which the Supreme Court has ruled constitutional.
“What if it were your child?” some ask. Personally, I’d send a thank-you note, but also expect to be notified. Given the prevalence of drugs in our schools, I’d be grateful steps are being taken to catch those who may attempt to persuade other students into using drugs.
I’d be thankful the school provided my child with another reason to say no to drugs. Yes, notify me. Let me be present. But, by all means, do a non-invasive urine drug test, which causes no lasting physical effects — unlike the birth control handed out by some schools that could cause medical concerns.
The real question is why wasn’t this mother concerned that her daughter smelled like pot or angry the school didn’t tell her about that? As a mother, I’d want to know and get to the bottom of it because my kid shouldn’t smell like drugs. A negative test doesn’t mean she wasn’t around someone using drugs. But, this mom didn’t seem concerned about that. Perhaps this tells us something about those parents who are so adamantly against school drug testing.