Two years after approving use of drug-sniffing dogs, Broward County, Fla., schools may use an aerosol spray that detects residue on desks or backpacks, similar to bomb-detection equipment used in airports, says the Miami Herald. Although drug use is down among high school seniors since the early 1980s, school systems nationwide are becoming more aggressive at attacking the problem. The federal government is offering aid to more than 20 school systems that want to try the new spray. If the Broward school board approves the kits, a principal could rub sticky paper on anything that might have been touched by a drug user and spray it with a chemical to find traces of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, speed and Ecstasy. The paper may display one of a rainbow of colors, depending on the substance: reddish-brown for marijuana, purple for heroin, canary yellow for amphetamines.
The school district says the kits would be used only when there is probable cause to suspect drug use, to confirm or debunk suspicions that a student is on dope. A positive test from the kit would likely steer a student to the guidance office, not the police station. “We don’t want this to be a punitive thing,” said an official. The U.S. Supreme Court allows public schools to drug-test students who participate in extracurricular activities, expanding a 1995 ruling allowing testing for athletes. Broward would join a handful of school districts nationwide that have used the kits, made by a Washington, D.C., firm.