Education chief eyes policies on drug testing on students before end of year

MANILA — An inter-agency group has begun formulating policies that would govern any drug test for elementary and high school students, as well as employees of the Department of Education (DepEd).

In a briefing Wednesday, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said they are not for a 100 percent drug testing of students but for getting a reliable number of samples for the millions of elementary and high schools students nationwide.

She said parties involved in this endeavor are optimistic of coming out with the policies before end of December but clarified that this does not mean that actual tests will be done before year-end.

“It (test) just might happen but it will not necessarily mean that we will call for a press conference,” she said.

Meetings have been held among representatives of DepEd, Department of Health (DOH), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the Dangerous Drugs Board.

A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) will be signed among the departments for this purpose.

The inter-agency group targets to conduct drug testing to determine the prevalence of drug use among students, aiming to have a 95 percent confidence in the results.

Briones said results of the drug tests will be confidential to protect the students and DepEd employees.

“The purpose is really to protect and to help whoever are involved in this because they have to keep their jobs and they have to be protected. We also have to protect our children,” she said.

The education chief stressed that the police cannot just conduct drug tests on students because they are prohibited from doing this.

DepEd has conducted random drug testing on secondary school students from public and private learning institutions in the past, in coordination with the DOH and DDB in line with Section 36 (c), Article III of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002”.

Revised DDB general guidelines on drug testing also include in the random drug test students of tertiary, vocational and technical schools.

During the same briefing, CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said they are considering requiring incoming college students to undergo drug tests but it will be done randomly for incumbent college students.

“That looks like the direction we are going but this has not been finalized,” she stressed. Joann Villanueva/PNA-northboundasia.com