Students demand drug testing in schools. Adults run away from responsibility: the police are not responsible, the teachers are not specialists, we don't have school doctors

The students in Bucharest want drug testing in schools, as a measure to prevent a phenomenon totally out of control. It is the conclusion of a questionnaire carried out by the Capital Prefecture to which 200,000 children responded. But, easy to say, hard to do. The reason? The decision to implement such a measure is controversial, to say the least, and raises a number of questions that remain unanswered for now. How should testing be done and by whom? When and where? How should parents, teachers, school management, police get involved? They all spin helplessly in the vicious circle of bureaucracy, legislative hiccups, sometimes even carelessness. Because neither some nor others take responsibility. Meanwhile, consumption and trafficking have become national sports.

Drugs ended up being consumed even in secondary schools. Photo source: archive

The Prefecture of the Municipality of Bucharest initiated a public debate a few months ago regarding the introduction of several measures to prevent drug use in schools in the Capital. It was also then that a survey was announced, to which more than 20,000 students have answered so far. The conclusions? 60.2% of the respondents declared that they agree with the introduction of drug tests in schools, and 50% agree with the periodic performance of blood tests in order to detect psychoactive substances. Moreover, 77.2% of the surveyed students want the introduction of anti-drug courses in the school curriculum, considering that it would be very beneficial for young people.

Measures taken..with measure

“We need measures like this, but we also need to think about what happens when a test is positive. The marginalization and stigma that this spectrum of drugs creates can greatly affect a student's social integration process, which is why many users are scared and don't want to ask for help“, Alexandru Pau, the representative of the National Council of Students, detailed for “Adevărul”.

As for the blood tests, we think they are a bit extreme. First of all, we don't think the infrastructure or the budget is there to collect the samples. Then let's consider how thorough the Covid testing process was in the pandemic. And then the tests were done from saliva..now it would be about blood tests“, said the student, who believes that such an idea cannot stand.

As for anti-drug courses, the National Student Council considers them necessary and helpful. On one condition, though. “They can be very effective as long as they are done in an interactive and interesting way for students. It is about how the subject can be approached in such a way that it attracts, arouses interest“, Alexandru Pau told us. He is of the opinion that the message should be strong, with emotional impact, students should be presented with concrete, real cases, learn from the experiences of those who have lived and managed to overcome addiction. “And we need to think not only about prevention, but also about the students who are already consuming. If someone came, a former consumer, to share their experience, their story, maybe the impact of the message would be really strong.”

The representative of the students told us that this phenomenon of drug use should be fought from several levels, from several directions, and the actors involved should be the teachers, parents, students, the authorities, the whole society. “However, there are parents who will not give their consent testing. They will not even believe that they have children with such problems. They will not want to hear that a teacher is suspicious of their child. They will say that such a thing is not possible, their child does not take drugs, does not consume… This is the reason why they should also be held responsible”.

And, Alexandru also says, consumer students will most likely not want the testing either. He believes that random testing could be an option to consider and that would have effects. But, regardless of the measures that will be taken, he adds, a flower does not make spring. “Fighting consumption only in school is only a small step“. Which, we say, doesn't really matter if the fight against drugs doesn't go beyond the school fence. “If we want to do something for students, we must also take into account their surroundings and what they do at home, in the environment in which they live, in their free time… if we want to stop consumption only in schools, it seems to me that we are struggling in vain“, said Alexandru Pau.

Drug testing of students is a topic that has been talked about a lot lately, and the debates have been and are still very heated. Many voices claim that the measure would stigmatize, while others believe that this obligation would save lives, if not lives. But all in all, no one wants to take on the actual testing. Not the teachers, not the parents, not the authorities. That is why we have remained at the discussion level. And so.

“It is important, first of all, to know where such things happen because, often, school management tries to cover up the phenomenon. Do not report problems. Or very few doDan Tita, the president of the Parents' Federation from sector 1, told “Adevărul”.

And Cosmin Andreica, head of the Europol union, is of the same opinion: “We are talking about a phenomenon here. We are talking about the disinterest of some teaching staff who say my job is to teach the lesson, I am not interested in the fact that a student sleeps with his head on the table, has red eyes or shows signs of the consumption of psychoactive substances. It's other people's business“, the policeman complains about a well-known situation in schools: we see, we know, but we don't get involved. “Then we talk about the perception and approach of the principals, who don't want it to come out that their school is unsafe. And certain matters are covered up. It's about reputation. How can they admit that at the level of the school or high school they lead, drugs, alcohol are consumed or students enter with weapons?“, Cosmin Andreica wonders. And, he adds, not all parents agree with testing children in schools either.

But, on the other hand, at the level of the Parents' Federation, things are as clear as possible. “We at the Federation have spoken out on this subject for a long time and we still stand by our opinion: we support the introduction of drug testing in schools. But, in order to take at least a first step towards the implementation of this project, we should find out not only the opinion of the parents, but also of the students. Who, here, have expressed their point of view, even if we are only referring to those from Bucharest”.

Escape from responsibility. The police are not responsible, the teachers are not specialists, we don't really have school doctors

Testing should be done randomly and only in the presence of parents, Dan Tita also believes. “Or with the consent of the parent, but it is very difficult to obtain such a thing”, recognize it.

The parent also says that testing should be done in all schools, not just those where there is a precedent or where there are old and well-known problems. “If not, it would be a discriminatory procedure”.

Specifically, Cosmin Andreica, head of the Europol union, explained how the testing could be carried out. The steps are simple: the teacher detects a suspicious case, informs the management of the school unit, the principal calls the parent, and the test is carried out in his presence. “The moment a teacher notices a possible situation, discreetly, during the break, he approaches the student and asks him to be tested. Or, we can talk about a survey test like the 8th grade goes to the doctor's office today”the policeman comes up with some ideas.

The order in a school, the rules according to which the educational unit operates must be established at the level of the respective school unit, he also says. “The order in a school will not be made by the police. The school will do it. And the schools, by virtue of the rules they have also established, because it is forbidden to come to school drunk or drugged, should also provide prevention methods. Because when you establish a rule, you must also check its compliance. It's not the police who have to check if the students follow the school rules, but the school has that duty”.

Therefore, it would not be the duty of the police to test students in schools, says Cosmin Andreica. “As we know, drug use in Romania is not prohibited, it is not punished. The students are neither car drivers, nor moped drivers, nor cyclists…so that they can be tested compulsorily. Therefore, it is not up to the police to do drug testing in schools, it is up to the schools. The police intervene only when information about drug trafficking appears,” concludes the head of Europol.

The policeman says the test is simple and anyone can do it. You don't have to be a cop or a doctor for this. “You don't need specialized studies. It can be done by the nurse but also by the duty teacher. For example..vaccine administration at the doctor's office is 50 times more intrusive than drug testing“, says Cosmin Andreica.

However, the psychologist Ovidiu Telegescu comes up with a counterargument. “It's very difficult for a teacher to say that he suspects one student or another.. We enter labeling, stigmatization. We would do more harm than good. Not a teacher can give his opinion, but a specialist. So anyone can one day be apathetic or energetic, anyone can have red, inflamed, injected eyes. But not necessarily because of drugs. Maybe he was at the pool that morning and has a reaction from the chlorine in the water. what are you doing then In order to report a possible case of drug use, teachers should take a training course in this regard. We do not agree with the assumption”.

Therefore, the psychologist is of the opinion that the testing should be done by specialists. In no case of teachers. They do not have the necessary training. “A test could turn out to be false positive simply because it was not handled properly. Do you realize that that student will always carry that stigma? I have seen such a case with Vlad Pascu. The policeman had no idea how to use the device! And he was a policeman!”the psychologist recalls the famous May 2 case.

It also draws attention to one aspect: false positive tests could also occur in the case of a student who has followed or is following a certain drug treatment. “Most of the time, the children's medical history is not known. And what are you doing? Are you saying he's on drugs? When is he on neuroleptic medication? And you just rely on a quick test? Well, I've already stigmatized someone! They are things far too fragile to play with! And that's why they can't be done randomly“, the psychologist also declared. He also comes up with an example: the steroids that a person who goes to the gym can administer. “They can give false positives!”

Then, continues the specialist, if it were decided that these tests should be carried out in the medical offices of the schools, we would face another problem: “Not all schools have medical offices, doctors and nurses, school counselors..psychologists“, explains Dr. Ovidiu Telegescu.

The specialist believes that the priority is not testing, but prevention. How to make it not happen again. “If I don't explain to the student what happens, concretely, after they administer drugs…if we don't rely on examples, on logic, on information delivered as simply as possible…let's just talk to them like that from the books, we won't solve anything”, concluded the expert.