Student Drug Testing

Rita Porter addresses the North Clay Board of Education on Monday with her concerns regarding the random student drug testing policy. The policy was approved by the board with a 4-3 vote.

LOUISVILLE — The revised random drug testing policy passed by the North Clay Board of Education on Monday needs changes, according to board member Cecil Cochran.

Therefore, Cochran voted against the policy. Board members Chrissy Erwin and Janice Brooks also voted against the policy for similar reasons.

Cochran said he preferred to consider suggestions, issues and concerns brought forth by the community and to look over the policy once again before adoption.

About 100 people filled the commons area of the North Clay Elementary/

Junior High to either express their concerns about implementation of a random student drug testing policy for North Clay High School students or say why they are for such a policy.

Concerns included confidentiality issues, costs, reasonable suspicion, students' rights, students' self-esteem, gray areas in the policy and what to do for students who won't be tested because they aren't in extracurricular activities or don't have parking permits.

Those who spoke out for the policy contended something needs to be done to eliminate drugs from the school and, even though parents should be the ones keeping their children off drugs, it doesn't always work that way and something else needs to be done.

The majority of speakers were against the policy and contended there were other options to keep students off drugs.

Rita Porter, a grandmother, suggested preventative programs for junior high and high school students. However, some contend assemblies on the subject of drugs may not be effective because most teens won't ask questions and offer discussion in front of the entire school and administration because they may be embarrassed or humiliated.

Students should be taught about the dangers of drug abuse in a small-group setting for more discussion and individual attention, Porter said.

Also, a teen center in the community would be a place for teens to do activities and thus not be bored, which leads to trouble, she said.

Porter believes drug testing will not be a solution because, according to a study published in the Journal of School Health, drug testing doesn't have an impact on student drug use. Only 5 percent of schools nationwide enforce drug-testing policies, she said, and several schools have abandoned them because of their ineffectiveness and costs involved.

Porter pleaded with the board to work with the community on the issue.

"This policy isn't ready to adopt," she said.

Parent Julie Galloway questioned what would be done to assist students who may be using drugs and aren't in the testing pool.

School officials aren't legally allowed to test an entire student population because students have the right to go to school, but they can be in a testing pool if they are part of extracurricular activities or have parking permits because those are privileges.

Although that question wasn't addressed, drug issues also are covered in the student and athletic handbooks for the rest of the student population.

Parent Alex Fulk asked many questions about the policy, including what was the meaning of "reasonable suspicion." Reasonable suspicion is when a teacher, coach or sponsor believes a student may be on drugs and alerts an administrator. The administrator, according to the policy, needs to confirm the reasonable suspicion before a student is tested.

Audience members and Cochran questioned why reasonable suspicion is part of the policy. They argued testing under reasonable suspicion wouldn't be truly random if a student was picked by a person, instead of the computer program that randomly selects students by ID numbers.

Cochran suggested eliminating the reasonable suspicion clause from the policy, but the motion died for lack of a second.

"I'm not comfortable with this being here because it removes the true randomness of the policy," Cochran said.

Others were concerned about the conflicting rules in student and athletic handbooks, as opposed to the random drug testing policy.

According to the handbooks, students can be suspended from school if they're on drugs. However, students governed under the random drug testing policy whose drug tests come out positive are required to get counseling.

Cara Rinehart, Unit 25 district outreach coordinator, said there are options for all students to seek counseling.

Dale Murbarger, spokesman for the committee selected to create a policy to present to the board, answered other questions for the audience.

Confidentiality will be an issue no matter what, he said, after the audience expressed concern about the possible lack of confidentiality in drug testing.

"I've lived in Louisville since 1965, and there's probably people who know more about me than I know about myself. That's the nature of a small town," Murbarger said.

Galloway asked if parents could be present when their students are drug-tested, in accordance with the General Education Provisions Act. Rinehart answered that could be a problem, because if a student is selected and the parent is called, and the parent can't be there at that time and another date for the testing is set, then the test won't be random.

Others were for the policy. Teacher and parent Debbie Cox said she would hope her children weren't on drugs, but would want to know if her children tested positive.

"The people that are against it (policy), what else can we do?" she asked.

Parent Darla Murphy said her daughter, a student at the high school, has complained of smelling marijuana in school bathrooms. Murphy's daughter and niece are on the random drug testing policy committee.

"I'm for it (the policy), because there needs to be something done. I think it's a good deal, I think it'll get the ball rolling," Murphy said.

Teacher Melissa Smith asked everyone in the audience who was for the policy to stand; about half the audience stood.

"I've always been told it takes a community to raise a child, not just two people," Smith said.

About 3 1/2 hours into the meeting, the board began discussing the issues and then voted. The board voted on tabling the policy until a future meeting could be held to discuss issues raised by the community; the motion failed with "no" votes from Darren Bailey, Sharon Kessler, Troy Britton and Sherry Porter.

As for the board's final decision to adopt the policy, Cox said she was pleased. Rita Porter had another opinion.

"I think they asked for public input and they turned their backs on us," Rita Porter said.

Alta Mayhugh can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 131 or alta.mayhugh@effinghamdailynews.com.

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