Another Kauffman Test: For Drugs

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For youths enrolled in Kauffman Scholars, the road to higher education isn’t just paved with preparation for college entrance tests. It’s also paved with random drug tests. (See related story, College Opportunity Knocks, But Often Gets No Answer.)

“They would always just surprise you with the drug tests,” said Rene Martinez, 18, a member of the Class 1 Scholars. “They wouldn’t warn you. They would say, ‘Hey, we’re doing drug tests today.’ They would just line you up and say, ‘We’re going to the bathroom.’ ”

Kauffman Scholars spent $16,000 in 2007 on random drug tests, its federal income tax records show. Was it money well spent?

 “Some people would say it’s a waste of money, because basically nobody did drugs in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade,” Martinez said. “Some parents would say it’s a waste of money and get offended.”

The random drug tests ultimately proved useful. “It wasn’t until later on, like our freshman and sophomore year, that people started coming out positive for it,” Martinez said.

R. Stephen Green, CEO of Kauffman Scholars, said drug testing is part of the legacy of Ewing Marion Kauffman, the billionaire pharmaceutical magnate who founded the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which gave birth to Kauffman Scholars. Kauffman created Project Star, a drug resistance program started  in the 1980s that was adopted by many states. It was preceded by Project Choice, another Kauffman creation that also involved random drug tests.

Green makes no apologies for subjecting students to random drug tests. “Students make better choices when they’re free from the influence of drugs,” he said.

He said the organization seeks to help youths who test positive, not punish them. “If a student tests positive for drugs, it’s not the end of the world, and we engage them and their parents in a serious intervention,” Green said.

Kauffman Scholars keeps the door open for youths who get treatment and agree to undergo drug tests on demand. “If they’re going through rehab, we’re still here once they come out of rehab,” Green said. “Bottom line: There is no formula. Each situation is examined on a case-by-case basis.”