News & Politics

Outrage: Why Are 6th Graders Being Drug Tested?

Drug tests of middle school students, already up and running in 9 states, are demeaning to young people.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Photoroller

Drug tests on high school, college and professional athletes have become normalized and ingrained in American culture. But revelations that middle school students are being asked to undergo drug tests to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities are turning some heads and sparking lawsuits.

That middle school students have been asked to pee in cups to participate in sports was the subject of an eye-opening New York Times article published September 22. The states of “Florida, Alabama, Missouri, West Virginia, Arkansas, Ohio, New Jersey and Texas” conduct drug testing on middle school students, the New York Times reported.

Proponents of drug testing middle school students argue that it serves as a deterrent to drug abuse by young people. But “there are no known instances of a middle school student testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs,” the Times notes, and critics call the tests multi-billion dollar industry with dubious results that violate the civil liberties of young people.

Typically, here’s how the test goes: “Students are generally given little, if any, advance notice and are pulled away from class and asked to urinate in a cup — unsupervised, to comply with privacy laws,” the Times reports.

The federal government is also in on the business. According to the Times report, “in 2003, the Department of Education started a program that offered federal money for drug testing in grades 6 through 12.”

The New York Times story zeroes in on one family who is fighting the drug testing of middle school students. The Kiederer family is mired in a lawsuit filed against the Delaware Valley School District in Pennsylvania. One of the Kiederer daughters was asked to undergo a drug test because she wanted to play sports. The family says that the practice is unnecessary and violates privacy rights.

For now, the family has won an injunction “preventing the district from enforcing its policy and allowing their daughters to participate in extracurricular activities.”

“They’re losing their rights every day and you ask yourself, what are we teaching the kids?” asked Glenn Kiederer.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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