|Back to April Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 231||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||APRIL 2005|
|Schools Test More for Drugs, Alcohol|
Breath analyzers have been used for years at proms and pep rallies at thousands of schools. Now, however, a few districts around the country have begun to test for alcohol during the regular school day.
Drug testing of students is also expanding from athletics to other extracurricular activities and even driver's ed classes. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 approved student drug testing as a condition to participation in extracurricular activities (Board of Education of Pottawatomie County v. Earls).
Schoolday alcohol testing currently occurs in the East Hampton school district on Long Island and in a district in Mishawaka, IN, and is planned in the Avon school district in central Connecticut. The East Hampton district reacted to incidents of students showing up in class drunk after lunch. Testing there is done by a trained staff member, not a police officer, and the penalty is suspension. (New York Times, 3-3-05)
Random drug testing for extracurricular activities is now permitted by Virginia state guidelines, and anti-drug activists are pushing Fairfax County's middle and high schools to implement it. But "there are many, many parents who consider this a major invasion of privacy," said Lynn Terhar, president of the county Council of Parent Teacher Associations. (connectionnewspapers.com, 8-19-04)
Parents 'in denial'
"Drugs are causing chaos in our schools," countered DeForest Rathbone, chairman of the Great Falls-based National Institute on Citizen Anti-Drug Policy. "It's disrupting the kids' education. And it's a major health and safety issue." He cited statistics indicating that 22,000 deaths a year result from drug abuse.
The Virginia guidelines allow a school to compel a student who tests positive into drug treatment and bar the student from extracurricular activities. Research on the effects of drug testing on drug use is mixed.
In James City, VA, a principal who describes himself as a civil libertarian is leading the charge for testing athletes for drugs this fall, and perhaps expanding the program after that. "I wouldn't favor this if I thought it [drugs] wasn't a real problem for the youth in this town," said Parke Land of Lafayette High. The program won't involve police and will keep test results private. Parents and students must sign a consent form before the students can try out for a team. (Virginia Gazette, 11-20-04)
In Alton, IL, school officials began testing students for alcohol before school dances, starting with the Christmas dance last December. Suspension and mandatory attendance in a student assistance program are the penalties. Some parents and students expressed outrage, but Alton High principal Phil Trapani said, "I have a difficult time understanding why any parent would be against this."
"I wonder if the school would get the blame if a carload of kids left the dance drunk and got in an accident? I'd get roasted," he told the Alton Telegraph (12-8-04).
The American Civil Liberties Union generally opposes drug and alcohol testing of students as well as physical-monitoring systems.