Drug testing of students ‘preventive, not punitive’ – Briones

Mara Cepeda

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Drug testing of students ‘preventive, not punitive’ – Briones
Education Secretary Leonor Briones says 'every effort is going to be made' to keep the results of the random drug test confidential

MANILA, Philippines – Education Secretary Leonor Briones promised strict confidentiality in the conduct of the forthcoming random drug testing among high school students.

The Department of Education (DepEd) chief gave the assurance after she was asked about the safety of students who will undergo the drug test following the death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos in an anti-drug operations conducted by the Caloocan City police.  

DepEd is about to begin the random drug testing of students in September through DepEd Order Number 40, series of 2017. DepEd also ordered the random drug testing of teachers and the mandatory drug testing of all DepEd employees.

“The circular is very, very clear. This is not a punitive law enforcement exercise. It is a preventive exercise. And this was planned as early as last year pa in response to public demand. Now every effort is going to be made to protect the identities of whoever will be identified in the test as related to drugs,” Briones told Rappler on Tuesday, August 22.

She added specific details about the student undergoing the test – their personal information, the name of the schools, and drug test results – will not be publicized. 

“And so, you will not even know the school. And we’re not going to have a press conference. The test will not be done under your eye. You will not be interviewing the persons, etcetera, etcetera. The press will not be involved here. The thing is going to be confidential,” said Briones. 

“If there will be a leakage, it will probably be from other sectors, not from us. Never, never, never from us because we have strict penalties for release of confidential information,” she added.

Several netizens and lawmakers are concerned over the safety of students undergoing drug tests to be administered in schools after the death of Delos Santos.

The Grade 11 student, labelled by the police as a drug runner, was killed in Caloocan City last week. Cops claim Delos Santos fired the first shots. 

But CCTV footage and witnesses said Delos Santos was blindfolded by cops, beaten up, forced to hold a gun, before he was shot by the police. Autopsy results showed he was killed by 3 bullets that entered the back of his head.

Lawmakers already slammed the Commission on Higher Education for allowing colleges and universities to implement mandatory drug testing among students and student applicants. (READ: Mandatory drug tests could lead to ‘tokhang’ in schools, warns students’ union)

Briones said the DepEd will make sure parents of students who will be chosen for the random drug test will be informed about the guidelines for the drug test. A written notice will also be given to the parents. 

But failure to return the acknowledgement slip of this notice “shall not be a bar to the conduct of the drug testing and of the said students’ inclusion in the sample.” This means with or without the parent’s consent, a student chosen for the random drug test would have to go through with the procedure. 

“Because according to the law, consent is not needed. What is important is that they are informed,” explained Briones.  

Still, the DepEd chief said the department order has laid out the necessary safeguards to protect the students.  

Students who test positive will undergo confirmatory tests. If these second tests yield another positive result, the students will be referred to a DOH-accredited physician and health facility, where they will be subjected to a drug intervention program.

Briones said drug test results will not be a basis for the school to punish the student. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.