Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2006

Drug testing pitched

October 5, 2006

A rumor that De Soto USD 232 would implement random student drug testing at the high school level gave the principals an idea.

At Monday's board meeting, De Soto High School Principal Dave Morford and Mill Valley High School Principal Joe Novak asked the board to consider a task force or study committee to explore the idea of random drug testing for students involved in extracurricular activities.

Novak said although a rumor the school would implement the plan this year was not true, it made him think about the possibility.

"(The rumor) sent a shock wave through our kids that was good to see," he said. "When it came out that we were just looking at it, there was a sigh of relief."

Board member Bill Waye said that if students were to undergo random drug testing, he wanted to see that employees had to meet the same standards.

"I don't have any objections to keeping drugs out of the school, and I hear exactly what you are saying," Waye said. "I would like at the same time that we get serious information about at least drug testing for employees."

Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said administrators had discussed a policy of drug testing for new district employees.

Novak and Morford said their concern about drug use at school had escalated in recent years. Novak said school resource officers were a great help. Mill Valley also has unannounced visits from officers with drug-sniffing dogs two or three times a year, she said.

"I'm glad we haven't found anything," Novak said. "Unfortunately over the years zero tolerance has taken a new twist. In its essence it was probably originally a deterrent for high school kids because they really thought they could get caught by word of mouth. That really is beginning to wane."

Both principals researched random drug testing programs used in other schools. The districts in Scottsbluff, Neb., and El Dorado have two such programs. Morford said although courts have not upheld random drug testing of all students, they have upheld testing of students involved in activities because while education is considered a right, school activities are considered a privilege.

A recent opinion from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas stated that random drug testing of students in school activities was a "reasonably effective means of addressing school drug use."

Novak said programs against drugs and alcohol were losing effectiveness against peer pressure. Even facing punishment or suspension from school activities hasn't served as a deterrent, he said.

"It's a problem that is in every school," Morford said. "Look at some of the surrounding districts, and you'll see. We do have those problems and this is just one more tool in the box for us to help kids to succeed."

He said random drug testing could be implemented for several school activities -- sports, driver's education courses and especially school dances.

Novak said the as-yet unnamed committee would study the feasibility of testing, whether or not it could include testing for alcohol and hear from those who believe testing is an invasion of the student's privacy.

"We want to make sure we're not just jumping the gun and have all our bases covered," Novak said.

Board president Don Clark commended the principals for their interest in random drug testing.

"I had heard the same rumor and knew there was a concern, which I think is great," Clark said. "It's time for this. We see these athletes pushing the limit and my fear is one day we'll have to hire medical personnel."

Board member Sandy Thierer pointed out that many employers do random drug screenings and students would face testing when they entered the workforce.

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