Pubdate: Tue, 19 Nov 2002
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2002 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Nick Martin
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Legal Advice Expected By Dec. 10 Meeting

Garden Valley School Division is considering extending its proposed random 
drug and alcohol student testing program to non-athletic extracurricular 
activities -- even though the Winkler-area division is still waiting to 
find out if its controversial plan is legal.

"The biggest question has been, why only athletes?" school board chair 
Hilda Froese said from Winkler last night.

Extending the random urine tests "has been looked at, but it has to remain 
within extracurricular," she said.

Froese said trustees did not seek a legal opinion before approving the 
random drug and alcohol tests for student athletes in principle last month. 
The school board believes it cannot conduct tests on all students, because 
attending school is a right, while extracurricular activities are a 
privilege, Froese said.

Garden Valley hopes to get legal advice from its lawyer by the next board 
meeting Dec. 10, she said.

Froese would not speculate on how early that testing could begin at Garden 
Valley Collegiate in Winkler. "It's almost risky to say timelines anymore. 
Time is not the issue -- the most important part is to do it right."

Froese said the community has been overwhelmed by how much interest the 
proposed testing has drawn from across Canada and part of the U.S.

"It's quite phenomenal -- why is everyone so incredibly interested in 
this?" she said.

"We've had probably more response from out and about, beyond the community, 
outside the province, even across the U.S. border, than it has from within."

Froese said trustees are not ready to disclose what penalties they would 
impose for students who test positive for drug and alcohol use.

Education Minister Ron Lemieux has strongly urged the division to get legal 
advice, consult widely, and show that there is a crisis that necessitates 
what he is calling drastic action. "What would you define as a crisis?" 
asked Froese. "It came as it should have, from the high school administration.

"A lot of people recognize that drugs and alcohol are a problem in every 
school, as well as our schools. Our board is saying, we will do whatever is 
right to make (students) safe and let them grow up to be the best they can be."

Under the proposal, the division would sign an agreement with a lab in 
Ontario. The testing company would randomly select students, whom the 
school would notify to go to a Winkler clinic to provide a urine sample, 
which would be sent to Ontario for analysis.

Lemieux is trying to organize a provincewide meeting as early as this week 
on school safety issues, involving the executive directors and top elected 
officials in organizations representing teachers, trustees, superintendents 
and parent councils.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom