Pubdate: Sun, 24 Nov 2002
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2002 The Decatur Daily
Author: Deangelo McDaniel
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


HARTSELLE - At least one student who participates in an extracurricular
activity here has tested positive for a substance the school system's
drug-testing policy prohibits.

There may be more, but Superintendent Lee Hartsell refuses to release the
figures until he gives a report to the Board of Education in December.

The superintendent said he didn't want board members to read about the
results for the first time in the paper.

State law says the public has the right to inspect and take copies of public
writings unless another law prohibits a document from being public. The law
does not require the superintendent to first give a report to the board.

School board member Ronnie Abercrombie says he does not agree with the
superintendent's position.

"The release of information is vital to working on the problem," Abercrombie
said. "We need to know if our numbers are higher or lower than other school

Hartsell said Wednesday that he would not release the result because he did
not know if he legally could.

The superintendent contacted Decatur attorney Bill Shinn, who represents the
Hartselle Board of Education.

Hartsell said Shinn told him Friday morning that he could make the results
public, but the superintendent refused to do so.

Decatur released results of its first tests in October. No student tested
positive. Other area school systems, such as Limestone and Lawrence
counties, release their figures when the public requests them.

Donnie Powers supervises the drug-testing program for the Limestone County
school system. Powers said between 3 and 4 percent of the athletes in
Limestone County tested positive for some kind of banned substance in 1996.

This year, the figure was below 1 percent, he said.

"We're looking for that year that no student tests are positive," Powers
said. "Our figures have declined each year."

All students in Limestone County must submit to at least one scheduled drug
test, but they are subject to random tests.

Hartselle has the broadest student drug-testing program in the area. The
school system tests all middle and high school students who participate in
extracurricular activities.

A committee that the school board appointed drafted Hartselle's policy after
two baseball players fell out in school. One of the players tested positive
for marijuana in his system.

During baseline testing, Hartsell said, the system tested about 630 high
school students and 300 students in the middle school. Hartselle conducted
its first random testing this week.

The board hired Dr. James Thomas of Cullman to conduct the tests. He
releases results to Franklin Penn, the school system's drug-testing

Penn and a committee consisting of Abercrombie and a high school nurse open
the results.

If a test result is positive, Penn notifies the parents of the student and
the appropriate school employees.

Regardless of the activity in which a student participates, Hartselle's
policy requires any student who tests positive to get counseling and serve a
suspension from the activity.

Abercrombie said the feedback from parents about student drug testing has
been positive.

"I've had parents and grandparents to call and tell me the policy was
working because kids in their families have quit, especially when it comes
to tobacco products," he said.
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