Pubdate: Thu, 21 Mar 2002
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)
Copyright: 2002 Chattanooga Publishing Co.
Author: Lindsay Riddell


Public school students who participate in any extracurricular activities, 
not just athletics, could be tested for drugs if the U.S. Supreme Court 
upholds a ruling in rural Oklahoma.

Officials at Chattanooga area private schools that have implemented testing 
of all students or are voting on such measures said they believe broad 
testing deters drug use.

"Our kids have indicated in various meetings that the sense of peer 
pressure has dropped for them," said Perry Storey, principal at Notre Dame 
High School. "If people know you're going to Notre Dame, they know you'll 
be held accountable so you can't do that (drugs)."

All Notre Dame students are tested for drugs since a blanket testing policy 
was enacted in September 2001. As of Wednesday, 500 of the school's 575 
students, including all seniors, had been tested. Fewer than 3 percent 
registered a positive reaction, Mr. Storey said.

Some parents, including Elizabeth Carignan, who sent her son to a public 
school when drug testing was implemented at Notre Dame, said they feel 
testing without cause is a violation of student and parent rights.

"I really don't have a problem with drug testing kids if they have a 
reason," Ms. Carignan said. "But my problem with Notre Dame is they were 
testing everybody."

In 1995 the Supreme Court ruled that testing student athletes for drugs was 
not a violation of their constitutional rights. If the Supreme Court 
upholds the current ruling on drug testing, it would broaden the scope of 
which students legally could be tested to include all those who participate 
in any extracurricular activities. As a private school, Notre Dame would 
not be affected by the ruling because parents sign a contract that allows 
school officials to test students for drugs.

Hamilton County Schools reported 20 suspensions and 75 expulsions for drug 
use in the 2000-2001 school year, but officials said they aren't 
considering drug testing.

"I do not see us at this time looking to drug-test students randomly in 
Hamilton County schools," Assistant Superintendent Rick Smith said.

School officials in some North Georgia counties that already test students 
or are voting on drug testing are watching the Supreme Court ruling closely.

In March, the Whitfield County school board approved a policy that allows 
the county's high schools to conduct "initial, random and suspicion-based" 
drug testing of student athletes beginning in September.

"Based on conversations with our attorney, student athletes were the only 
ones you could do it (drug testing) on," said Ric Ayer, assistant 

Whether the board broadens its tests to include students participating in 
all extracurricular activities will depend on the outcome of the Supreme 
Court case, Mr. Ayer said.

"If the community didn't feel the problem was severe enough to intrude on 
all our students' rights, then I don't think our board would," he said.

Mr. Ayer said respecting the rights of students and ensuring them a safe 
and healthy school environment is sometimes tough to balance. Many parents, 
however, encouraged the testing, including those in the Northwest High 
School Quarterback Club.

The club, made up of parents of football players, pushed for the testing to 
give student athletes a "scapegoat" when resisting drugs, though other 
parents were opposed, President Wayne Beason said.

"A lot of parents take offense because they think you're invading their 
privacy. And you are," Mr. Beason said. "But I think you give up some of 
those freedoms for your child's security."

Officials in the Catoosa County Schools, which includes the Lakeview-Fort 
Oglethorpe and Ringgold high schools, have been testing student athletes 
and band members since September 1997.

Ringgold High School Principal Tommy Langley said he wouldn't be in favor 
of expanding the reach of drug tests to nonathletes because of the cost to 
parents. But singling out athletes and band members is justified, because 
they're in the public eye and drug use would be more noticeable for those 
individuals, he said.

"The sports and band and things like that are seen by people so much," Mr. 
Langley said. "They're out in the public and out being seen. Clubs and 
organizations are usually doing things just within their club and 
organization, so they're not in front of the people that much."

The $20 tests in Catoosa County involve a urinalysis and are done onsite at 
both high schools, said Susan Wells, Catoosa County student services director.

The school board for Collegedale, Tenn., Academy will vote today on whether 
to begin testing all students for drugs next school year, Principal Verle 
Thompson said.

Collegedale is modeling its drug testing after Notre Dame's policy, which 
calls for testing all students once and additional students at random 
during the year.

"What we've found is this really puts everybody on an even playing field," 
Notre Dame Principal Mr. Storey said. "It doesn't put our school into a 
situation of trying to say we think this person is doing drugs and this 
person is not doing drugs. Our parents feel this is a very fair program 
versus targeting individual kids."

Ms. Carignan said she would have few options left if drug testing was 
introduced in public schools.

"I don't really want to home school, but we might have to just look into 
that, too," she said.
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