UW Privacy Office

Student Drug Screening

Managing Third-party Requirements for Drug Screening Students

University units pursue pedagogical objectives and prepare students for their intended careers, in part, through required experiential learning or similar student engagement at third-party sites external to the University.

When University units place students at third-party sites (“Host Sites”), students may be limited in the choices they can make about Host Sites to which they are assigned. Host Sites may require drug screenings prior to students’ experiential learning. When subjected to Host Sites’ drug screening processes, students’ sensitive personal data may be made known external to the University. The policy and related resources that appear below form a framework for protecting student privacy through University unit management of Host Site-mandated drug screenings.

Privacy Policy for Third-party Requirements for Drug Screening Students

The Privacy Policy for Third-party Requirements for Drug Screening Students (the “Policy”) is intended to help protect student privacy and applies to a University unit when it:

  1. Requires experiential learning or similar student engagement external the University;
  2. Places students at one or more Host Sites that require drug screening; and
  3. Does not allow students to make a choice about placements or allows students to make a choice about placements when all University unit-selected Host Sites require drug screening.

Resources for University Units

To operationalize the student privacy protections described in the Policy, University units must consult and/or use, as appropriate, the resources that appear below.

Creating Student Awareness

To create student awareness about drug screening, University units must adopt an iterative notice and communication strategy that leverages varying forms of content delivery and engagement over time. This strategy must include a formal student-facing notice and reoccurring student awareness.

University units must use the Student Drug Screening Notice Template (docx), which is designed to comprehensively inform students about the existence and nature of all Host Sites’ drug screening requirements, the impacts of such drug screenings, and what to expect of the drug screening process. As appropriate, University units must incorporate their completed Student Drug Screening Notice and informal communications into:

  • Recruiting materials, processes, and events for prospective students;
  • Admissions materials and processes;
  • New student orientations;
  • Information sessions and/or one-on-one advising designed specifically for exploring and answering student questions about approaching placements;
  • Initiation of experiential learning placements; and
  • Written content available online for students (such as student handbooks or similar reference materials)

Entering into a Personal Data Processing Agreement with a Lab

When a University unit manages student drug screenings through use of a selected Lab, as defined in the Policy, that Lab operates as a contractor and processes student personal data. As such, the University’s Data Processing Agreement (“DPA”) must be incorporated into an underlying service agreement with that Lab.

Process for University-managed Drug Screenings

Initiating Drug Screening

When students are placed at a Host Site that requires drug screening, a University unit may make known to its Lab those students that will undergo drug screenings. A University unit should notify students that a drug screening needs to be completed and provide logistical information about the Lab (such as location options, costs, and instructions for making appointments) and a timeframe for completing the drug screening.

The timeline for a University unit to initiate and students to complete drug screening should be informed by the requirements of a Host Site at which a student is placed; proximity to the date a student’s placement will commence; the length of time needed for sample collection, analysis, and review; and any other relevant operational considerations identified by a University unit.

Failing to Complete Drug Screening

If a student does not complete a drug screening required by a Host Site at which the student has been placed, the University unit must inform the student that they did not satisfy the Host Site’s requirements for experiential learning and will not commence the placement as anticipated. With respect to a Host Site at which a student was initially placed, the University unit may only communicate to the Host Site that the student will not commence the planned placement.

University units must document that the student did not meet the Host Site requirements and the student and the Host Site were informed accordingly.

Evaluating Results

If the Lab detects substances in a student sample, the Lab’s medical review officer or functional equivalent should contact the student directly to ascertain if the substance can be attributed to a prescribed medication or a similar mitigating condition. Pursuant to the Lab’s own processes, such drug screening results may be characterized as negative or otherwise mitigated. At no stage in this evaluation process should a University unit learn about any medical review officer inquiries posed to students or the responses offered for such inquiries.

Consenting to Release of Results

At the conclusion of a Lab’s collection, analysis, and review of a student sample (including any medical review officer evaluation), either a positive or negative result (and no additional information) should be communicated back to a University unit. Such communication must be consistent with a student’s consent to release drug screening results directly to the University unit.

Limiting Access to Personal Data

Protecting student privacy with respect to drug screening information is achieved, in part, by ensuring that drug screening results are only made available to those in a University unit who have a need to know such information to perform their job duties. University units should designate one staff member who will be responsible for receiving and reviewing drug screening results from a Lab. At the University unit’s discretion, an additional staff member may serve as the main designee’s back-up and/or an individual to whom any drug screening issues are escalated.

Handling Negative Results

If the University unit receives a student’s negative drug screening result from its Lab (i.e., no substances were detected) and the student has met all other requirements for their placement, the reviewer of that result may inform the student that they have met the Host Site’s requirements and will commence their experiential learning.

Further, a University unit may inform a Host Site that the student will commence the placement as anticipated. This confirmation may take the form of direct communications with the Host Site, completion of a placement service or intermediary’s sign-off process, or other communications or processes agreed upon by the University unit and the Host Site. When commencement of a placement is contingent on the fulfillment of multiple requirements, confirmations to a Host Site may only be provided once a student meets all requirements.

Handling Positive Results

If the University unit receives a student’s positive drug screening result from its Lab (i.e., substances were detected), the reviewer of that result will inform the student in-person or by phone about the outcome of their drug screening, their failure to meet a Host Site’s requirements, and that they will not commence experiential learning at that Host Site.

Following in-person or phone communications with the student, the reviewer must document that the student was informed that they did not meet the Host Site requirements. Such documentation may not reference a positive drug screening result. Information relating to the outcome of a drug screening (i.e., a positive result) should only exist in the result received from the University unit’s Lab.

If a student cannot be informed in-person or by phone, University units may send an email to the student’s University email address indicating that the planned placement will not commence. Email communications to a student should not reference the outcome of the drug screening or the student’s failure to meet a Host Site’s requirements.

With respect to a Host Site at which a student was initially placed, the reviewer of a positive drug screening result should only communicate to the Host Site that the student will not commence the planned placement.

As for Host Sites that utilize a placement service or similar intermediary for student experiential learning, any forms or attestations indicating a student’s fitness and/or compliance with the Host Site’s drug screening requirements may not be completed by the University unit. Rather, the Host Site’s placement service or similar intermediary may only be informed that the student will not commence the planned placement.

In the interest of confidentiality, the reviewer of the positive drug screening result should not reveal to the Host Site or the Host Site’s placement service or similar intermediary the existence of a student’s positive drug screening result or a student’s failure to meet the Host Site’s requirements.

Retaining Personal Data

University units must retain records relating to placements and drug screenings in accordance with any applicable UW Records Retention Schedule. As addressed in the Policy, University unit arrangements with Host Sites should reflect that the availability of drug screening records for a Host Site’s audit and inspection is limited by governing UW records retention schedules.

Protecting Personal Data

All personal data maintained by a University unit in connection with placements and drug screenings must be protected by appropriate technical, physical, and administrative measures as described in University Administrative Policy Statement 2.6 Information Security Controls and Operational Practices and 2.2 University Privacy Policy.

Limiting Data Processing to the Original Purpose

University units may only receive and review students’ drug screening results to facilitate experiential learning with Host Sites that mandate drug screening. University units may not use drug screening results and related information for any other purpose (such as the use of drug screening results to study substance abuse trends).

Glossary of Privacy Terms

Review the University Privacy Office’s Glossary of Privacy Terms for definitions of terms that appear in the policy, related resources, and this webpage.