By California education law, students are not allowed to be in the possession or under the influence of any illegal drugs or alcohol. Many public schools across the country test students for drug and alcohol abuse given reasonable suspicion that a student has or is under the influence of drugs. Some schools even conduct random drug testing for students in athletics, not only to keep them accountable, but to create a negative incentive.
M-A does not take part in drug testing at all, according to Assistant Vice Principal Karl Losekoot. He did state however, that the school owns a breathalyzer and “will use that breathalyzer occasionally at school dances” if they have reasonable suspicion that any student is using alcohol. Tom Jacobowski, former vice principal and athletic director at Gunn High School, also said that Gunn never did any direct drug testing when he was there. They did however, use certain methods if they suspected a student had been using marijuana. “Put the kid in a closed room, step out of the room for three minutes, then go back in, and you could usually smell the smell of marijuana,” Jacobowski explained. At Gunn dances, “every single student got breathalyzed” to avoid all use and possession of alcohol at school dances.
If a student at Gunn or M-A is caught with or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the student is usually suspended. At M-A, the suspension varies in length, while at Gunn the suspension is usually five days. Nevertheless, both Losekoot and Jacobowski commented on the rarity of these tests and the absence of any consistent drug testing.
For a suspended student, both M-A and Gunn offer programs to potentially shorten the suspension. These classes or sessions educate students in the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and present reasoning against ever using these substances in the future. Both value these programs as constructive opportunities; Jacobowski explained, “I think it’s important to use any time of discipline as an educational opportunity to work with students.” He values the importance of educating students, and not just punishing them and expecting them to stop. The sessions act as a way to help the students understand the impact of dangerous and illegal substances, and decide for themselves how to make the right decisions.
Administrators at M-A and Gunn believe that students are the only people who can really stop themselves. Schools can catch students and suspend them, but the important thing is to get a student to permanently stop. The programs are established to teach students about the unforeseeable effects and dangers of their actions. With this knowledge, students can see for themselves why not to use drugs and hopefully will make better behavioral choices, eliminating the need for strict punishments and policies at school.