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School Drug-Testing Plan Misguided

Posted: February 12, 2008 7:11 p.m.
Updated: April 5, 2008 2:01 a.m.

While random drug-testing of public high school students involved in extracurricular activities has been cleared by the U.S. Supreme Court and may serve as a deterrent to student drug use, the approach to drug testing that the Hart district’s Governing Board is now considering seems misguided for at least a few reasons.

First, we acknowledge that while a recent study released by the National Drug Control Policy and President Bush’s “drug czar” indicated overall teen drug use declined nationally by 23 percent between 2001 and 2006, some local anti-drug activists, among them Cary Quashen, founder/director of the nonprofit ACTION substance abuse and crisis counseling group, dispute those findings.

In any case, denying Santa Clarita has its share of teen drug use would be folly.

However, rather than random testing for just one or a few segments of the student population, all students should be included in any such testing program. It doesn’t seem fair unless the testing policy is across the board. Testing only students involved in extracurricular activities doesn’t square with the fact that those students are often among the least inclined to use illegal drugs.

At the same time, it would not be prudent to exempt those students from testing — not only because everyone should be eligible, but also to deter the relatively few extracurricular students or athletes who may use recreational or performance-enhancing drugs.

Voluntary testing would be unfair because it would not include all students.

In order for such a program to be effective, it would need the support of administrators, coaches, parents and the students themselves. Greg Lee, the district’s diversity coordinator, and Darryl Adams, district human resources director, recently completed researching the costs, concerns and legal issues involved in random testing. At the Jan. 23 Hart Governing Board meeting, Lee and Adams both reported that most administrators, coaches and parents were against such a program.

Sean Herron, the board’s student representative, said all students he spoke with were against testing, and that testing would not foster a positive relationship between students and administrators. Both Herron and Leslie Littman, head of the Hart District Teachers Association, suggested the $24,000-$38,000 annual cost of a testing program could be spent to hire an additional teacher.

Parents who spoke at the Jan. 23 meeting were also opposed.

Board members, including Gloria Mercado-Fortine, Steve Sturgeon and Dennis King, expressed their disagreement and displeasure with Lee’s and Adams’ findings and disagreed with parents who spoke against random testing. However, they requested Lee and Adams provide additional information.

Board members also conceded they would need parental and community support to establish and properly execute a random-testing program. Based on comments made during the Jan. 23 meeting, such backing is unlikely to materialize anytime soon.

If the board insists on forcing the issue, it should first thoroughly research the legal implications of testing for all students, then move forward with a program only if there is no risk of litigation, and no concern for fostering a positive relationship between students and administrators.

Copyright: The Signal


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