Pubdate: Wed, 18 Sep 2002
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2002 The Decatur Daily
Author: Deangelo McDaniel, Daily Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


HARTSELLE - The Hartselle Board of Education will meet in public Thursday 
night to discuss attorney Bill Shinn's concerns about the student 
drug-testing policy.

Board Chairwoman Susan Puckett originally appointed board members Ronnie 
Abercrombie and Cathy Goodwin to meet with Superintendent Lee Hartsell and 

Shinn is the school system's attorney.

Even when a quorum or majority of the board is not present, the state 
attorney general has repeatedly warned public bodies about meeting in private.

In 1996, the attorney general wrote: "Public access to public bodies 
generally extends to the entire decision-making process from discussion or 
debate and formulation through adoption and enforcement."

Mrs. Puckett wanted the two board members and superintendent to provide a 
summary of the meeting with Shinn to the rest of the board members.

Abercrombie declined to meet with Shinn, saying the attorney should present 
his concerns to the entire board in an open meeting.

He said he does not want to give the appearance that he has something to 
hide or violate the state's sunshine law.

Abercrombie wants Shinn to explain to the entire board why Hartselle's 
drug-testing policy goes beyond the authority the U.S. Supreme Court gave 
to school systems in June.

The court, in a 5-4 decision, said 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."

Shinn expressed his concerns about the board-approved policy in a five-page 

Shinn said the court's June ruling did not provide a "sufficient comfort 
level" to test students who are not in competitive extracurricular activities.

A student in competitive activities started the case that made it to the 
Supreme Court.

Although the Oklahoma school system only tested students in competitive 
activities, the policy the students challenged allowed students in all 
extracurricular activities to be tested.

The court did not differentiate between competitive and non-competitive 

Judge Clarence Thomas 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 

Board member Jeff Gray, a lawyer, wanted to get a second legal opinion, but 
the board didn't act on his request.

Hartselle adopted the most inclusive drug-testing policy in Morgan, 
Lawrence and Limestone counties.

In addition to testing athletes, band members and cheerleaders, the school 
system proposes to test students in 21 other activities.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager