Pubdate: Sun, 28 Apr 2002
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2002 The Decatur Daily
Author:  Deangelo McDaniel, Daily Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Decatur, Hartselle Consider Adopting Policy; Limestone Supervisor's 
Message: 'It Works'

HARTSELLE -- Donnie Powers has heard the arguments for and against a random 
drug-testing policy for students who participate in extracurricular activities.

Two area school systems -- Hartselle and Decatur -- are considering 
adopting drug-testing policies. The county school boards in Lawrence and 
Limestone counties adopted policies in 1996.

Powers is maintenance and transportation director for the Limestone County 
school system. He also supervises the drug-testing program and has a simple 
message for school systems that do not have one.

"It works," Powers said.

The proof, he said, is in the numbers. All students in Limestone County who 
participate in football, volleyball, track, baseball, softball, basketball, 
golf, swimming, cheerleading, soccer, tennis and wrestling must submit to 
at least one scheduled drug test. But they are subject to random tests.

Powers said between 3 and 4 percent of the athletes in Limestone County 
tested positive for some kind of banned substance in 1996.

"Today, this figure is below 1 percent," he said. "The number of kids 
testing positive has declined each year."

Powers does not buy the argument that drug testing is too expensive. He 
said school systems spend thousands of dollars on coaching supplements. A 
single drug test costs about $28. The Limestone school system budgets 
$50,000 for the drug-testing program.

"If the money helps one kid, it's money well spent," Powers said. "It will 
cost more to house the student in the county jail."

Hartselle City Council is pushing the school board to establish a 
drug-testing policy.

The issue of testing in Hartselle centers on two baseball players who 
collapsed in school March 4. One tested positive for marijuana at Hartselle 
Medical Center.

School administrators and the school board took no disciplinary action 
against the student because Superintendent Lee Hartsell said they could not 
prove that the drug use took place in school or at a school function. The 
school system has a policy against drug use in school or at a school function.

Chairman Susan Puckett said the school board considered a drug-testing 
policy last year, but did not adopt one because of cost.

Policy Committee

Hartsell said that the board will appoint a committee to develop a student 
drug-testing policy during a May 6 work session.

He wants the committee to include parents, coaches, a school board member 
and a City Council member. Councilman Tom Chappell has volunteered to serve 
on the committee. The superintendent has recommended that Hartselle High 
Assistant Principal Susan Hayes be chairwoman.

Hartsell said the committee will answer two major questions: who will be 
tested and how to punish a student who tests positive.

"I have about a dozen policies from other school systems, and they are 
pretty much the same," he said.

The committee must also wait on a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, 
which is expected to rule this summer on a case involving student drug 
testing in Oklahoma.

Attorneys for Lindsay Earls, who was a junior at Tecumseh High in 1999, 
asked the justices to determine whether public schools can require drug 
tests of all students in extracurricular activities, even if they are not 
suspected of drug use. Another question in the case is whether the schools' 
interest in protecting students and eliminating drug use overrides student 

The plaintiffs' claim that testing without suspected drug use violates the 
student's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. The 
10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the lower court ruling 
against Ms. Earls.

Her case is not the first to appear before the Supreme Court. In 1995, the 
court, by a 6-3 decision, upheld a drug-testing program for athletes in 
Vernonia, Ore.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager