Random drug testing isn’t unusual at private schools, but it’s new for public schools in the Houston area.

The policy change is a direct result of a drug bust at Columbia High School last April. Sixteen students were charged with felonies after undercover officers discovered they were selling everything from marijuana to cocaine. That was a wakeup call for school administrators who sat down and decided to send a clear message that drug use isn’t welcome on campus.

“What we need to do is let our students know, as well as our parents, that… drugs are a problem,” said Chris Miller, Columbia High School assistant principal.

This year about three quarters of the high school students will be subject to random drug testing.

“It won’t be an invasion of their privacy, it will simply be them going to the bathroom,” said Miller.

Anyone participating in extra-curricular activities is eligible for testing. But in addition, anyone who has a parking permit to drive on campus will also be subject to testing.

“I feel that it’s better because most kids are getting seriously hurt by drugs,” said Columbia student Jenna Rae.

The school doesn’t look at it as punishment, but rather a revocation of privileges.

Any student caught with drugs in their system will have extra-curricular or campus parking privileges revoked for 15 days for the first offense. The penalty for a second offense is 45 days and a year for the third offense. There will be no academic or legal punishment and the school will provide drug counseling programs.

“We want them to know that drug use is not acceptable and it is detrimental to their future,” said Miller.

School administrators said most parents have been supportive. Some even believe the school could do more.

“I think every student needs it,” said Tami Mahurin, a Columbia parent.

Meanwhile, school officials think this is a good start and a way to have a safer, smarter school.

“The policy is about helping our kids make good choices. Our main goal is to educate students,” said Miller.

The U.S. Department of Education released a July study on drug testing that said testing decreases drug use about five percent for those students eligible to be tested. The same study said random testing does almost nothing to curb use for those students not eligible to be tested.

Legally, drug policies like the one in Brazoria County have been upheld. Drug policies where all students are subject to random or mandatory tests have been struck down by courts.