Pubdate: Fri, 20 Sep 2002
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2002 The Decatur Daily
Author: Deangelo McDaniel


By Deangelo McDaniel DAILY Staff Writer   340-2469

HARTSELLE - The Hartselle Board of Education will implement the broadest 
student drug-testing program in the area beginning sometime in October.

The school system will test all middle and high school students who 
participate in extracurricular activities.

Superintendent Lee Hartsell said procedures are in place, and he is ready 
to start testing.

Bill Shinn, the attorney for the Hartselle school system, recommended that 
the board limit testing to students in competitive activities.

Shinn and the board met in a work session Thursday night to discuss his 
concerns about the policy. The board majority agreed to go against the 
attorney's recommendation on limited testing.

'The law is with us'

"I feel like the law is with us," board member Ronnie Abercrombie said.

Shinn agreed, but said the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling did not provide 
a "sufficient comfort level" for him to recommend that the board test 
students who participated in non-competitive activities.

"There will be room for disagreement as to what the Earls case said," Shinn 
said. "I may be too conservative, but I am concerned with the 5-4 decision."

Lindsay Earls, a junior at Tecumseh High in 1999, argued that an Oklahoma 
testing program went beyond the court's 1995 ruling. The school system 
tested Earls because she competed on the academic quiz team and sang in the 

The court ruled that the Oklahoma policy was constitutional.

The Hartselle board agreed to test all students in extracurricular 
activities after the court wrote that testing students "is a reasonable 
means of addressing the school district's legitimate concerns in 
preventing, deterring and detecting drug use." Shinn responded to board 
member Jeff Gray's request to get a second legal opinion. Gray is an attorney.

"I have no objection to you getting another legal opinion," Shinn said. 
"I'm trying to give you my best judgment."

Board Chairman Susan Puckett wanted to know the down side of pushing what 
Shinn considered the legal limit of the Supreme Court ruling. "You could be 
sued," Shinn responded. "Reading a Supreme Court ruling is like reading an 
x-ray. You may see something that is not there."

The board did agree to remove language that gives sponsors and coaches the 
authority to impose penalties that go beyond what is outlined in the policy.

"You need to have equality for the consequences," Shinn said. "I don't 
think it matters what the coach thinks."

The attorney recommended that the board write in the policy what is 
expected of students who participate in extracurricular activities and the 
drugs for which the system will test.

There was also some discussion about whether students who test positive 
should be allowed to practice. The board agreed to list what is expected of 
students and require a negative test before the student can again practice, 
but refused to list what specific substances for which students would be 

"I don't want to students to know what illegal drugs we are testing for," 
Gray said.
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