Pubdate: Thu, 05 Sep 2002
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2002 The Decatur Daily
Author: Deangelo McDaniel, Daily Staff Writer
Bookmarks: (Drug Testing) (Youth)


Shinn: Test Only Those in Competitive Activities

HARTSELLE - The attorney for the Hartselle Board of Education is
recommending that the school system drug-test only students who
participate in competitive extracurricular activities.

His recommendation goes against what the drug-testing committee
recommended and what the school board approved last month.

The school board accepted the group's recommendation, primarily
because of a U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for himself and four other

"We find that testing students who participate in extracurricular
activities is a reasonable effective means of addressing the school
district's legitimate concerns in preventing, deterring and detecting
drug use," Thomas wrote.

Attorney Bill Shinn of Decatur, however, said the court's ruling does
not provide a "sufficient comfort level" to test students who are not
in competitive extracurricular activities.

Shinn outlined his concerns about Hartselle's policy in a five-page
letter to Superintendent Lee Hartsell.

School Board Chairman Susan Puckett would not talk about Shinn's

"He has reviewed our policy, but we have not discussed it as a board,"
Mrs. Puckett said. "I would feel more comfortable (talking about it)
after we discuss is as a board."

The court's ruling in June stemmed from a case in Oklahoma. Lindsay
Earls, who was a junior at Tecumseh High in 1999, argued that the
testing program went beyond the court's 1995 ruling that included
student athletes.

The school system tested Earls because she competed on the academic
quiz team and sang in the choir.

In a 5-4 decision against Earls, the court said that school system's
desire to eliminate drugs on campus outweighed any right to privacy.

Although the policy in Tecumseh applied to all students in
extracurricular activities, the Oklahoma school system had only tested
students in competitive activities.

Shinn said the students who challenged the policy only participated in
competitive activities.

For this reason, Shinn said the issue presented to the court was
whether the Oklahoma policy was constitutional as it applies to
students in competitive activities.

The court wrote: "We conclude that the drug testing of Tecumseh
students who participate in extracurricular activities effectively
serves the school district's interest in protecting the safety and
health of its students."

Shinn had other concerns about the policy. He told the board members
in the letter that they should eliminate the discretionary authority
the policy grants to coaches and sponsors.

The proposed policy allows coaches and sponsors to impose penalties
beyond what the policy outlines. Shinn said the punishment should be
the same for each student.

The attorney also expressed his concerns about a section of the policy
that would punish students for offenses governed under the code of

The board wants to amend its code of conduct to make sure students in
extracurricular activities are penalized for conduct that may not be
related to a positive drug test.

If a basketball player, for example, is caught with a can of Skoal in
school, he would serve the penalty in the code of conduct plus the
penalty in the drug-testing policy.

Shinn said he does not know how the policies would coexist but said he
was certain that "evidence developed through testing under this policy
may not be used to support disciplinary action under the other policy."

Shinn suggested also that the board:

- - Add a section in the policy that clearly states what is required
of extracurricular students.

- - Identify in the policy for what drugs the students will be tested.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake