The Department of Education has initiated school-based random testing, which shall begin this academic year, to determine drug use prevalence in the education sector. 

While it will be random drug tests for high school students, it will be mandatory for all DepEd personnel.

"Our purpose is to find the prevalence of this phenomenon and do something about it [drug problem]," Education Secretary Leonor Briones was quoted by the Inquirer as saying.

She stressed that the activity was being conducted because the department is responsible for learners and not because it has anything to do with 'Tokhang', referring to the National Police's anti-drug campaign against suspected users and pushers.

Secretary Briones further clarified that the testing is not punitive but preventive, and results will only be used to determine prevalence. Results will be confidential, she added, and shall not be used to file charges against minors, nor will these even be put on record.

The department will not identify who is going to be included in the sample population as well as specific names of those who will test positive for illicit drugs, she stressed.

She further gave assurance that students and parents will be fully informed about the drug testing through assemblies or parent-teacher meetings. A student cannot undergo the drug test without parental consent.

DepEd was in close partnership with statistical experts in developing the sampling methods to be used for the activity. At the same time, it is closely coordinating with the Department of Health for the initiative, citing it is a health matter.

A budget ranging from Php 39 tp Php40 million pesos will be allocated for the drug test programme.

In early August the education department released its guidelines for the programme, which stated the guidelines shall follow parametres in accordance with Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), as well as the Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No 6, Series of 2003.

In a related development, the Commission on Higher Education encouraged private higher education institutions to adopt a drug testing policy to help reduce the prevalence of drug use in colleges and universities. While not mandatory, the commission said schools were authorized to use drug test results in acceptance and the retention of students. MIMS

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