COVID has put drug testing on hold; no return in sight

COVID has put drug testing on hold; no return in sight

Drug testing has been a controversial topic since the program was initiated at De Pere High School in 2006.

Everyone in extracurricular activities is subjected to random drug testing. In years past, 10 students were chosen every week to be randomly drug tested, but since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many practices at our school, there have been countless rumors regarding the suspicionless drug testing.

Principal Mr. Joseph said the last time drug testing was held was the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year. This was the last semester of school before COVID. While we didn’t have any random tests last year, or the first semester of this year, he said the district would “evaluate as we get going into the second semester.”

Mr. Joseph said that COVID has affected the decision to suspend random drug testing. He said the health office is used for both testing random students and quarantining positive COVID cases who can’t go home right away.

 “I’m not blaming COVID, but that’s a big reason,” he said. ” (With) the use of the health office and health personnel, there’s just no way (to have drug testing),” Mr. Joseph said. 

The main rumor we wanted to resolve, though, was whether the school planned to resume suspicionless drug testing. While it is a school board policy, Mr. Joseph said, “[The High School] did get an exemption from it, based on all the stuff I talked about. So unless that changed, we will be revisiting for sure.” 

Mr. Joseph said no decision has been made on whether or when testing will be returning. He said contact-tracing policies are a significant reason as to why the district suspended testing. That would mean testing could only reasonably return if school COVID cases became consistently manageable. So, to find out if testing will return, we just need to look at COVID statistics.

COVID in Brown County is the worst it’s been since the pandemic started. Outside the past month, November 13, 2020 had the worst 7-day average for new cases– an average of 286 new cases per day. As of January 12, 2022, the current 7-day average is 634 new cases per day.

That only matters if the school board makes decisions based on COVID in Brown County, rather than just in the district. In the district, the High School is in the middle of the highest spike since October. Nearly every other school in the district is experiencing the highest spike this school year.

With no end to COVID in sight, we asked Mr. Joseph if he felt drug use had increased since testing had ended. He said he wasn’t able to speculate, but he did mention related vaping studies.

“They talked about how [vaping] skyrocketed when kids were at home across the nation. Again I’m not saying anything [in De Pere], but I hope not,” he said. “I hope kids are making healthy smart decisions.”

It seems like Mr. Joseph would like testing to return, given he believes that “if [drug testing] stops one kid [from using substances] it’s worth it, in my opinion.”

But no matter how you cut it, COVID is not nearly manageable enough to justify the return of drug testing, and it doesn’t look like it will be soon.