Pubdate: Wed, 27 Aug 2003
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2003 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Elizabeth Barczak


Standing in line to take a mandatory drug test is becoming part of the 
back-to-school scene for more local students.

Hampton School District is the latest northern school to weigh in on the 
drug-testing controversy, with the school board expected to act this fall 
on a proposal to test students suspected of using drugs.

The district would join Carlynton, Seneca Valley in Butler County, 
Canon-McMillan in Washington County and Franklin Regional in Westmoreland 
County as more schools move toward mandatory drug testing.

Supporters say the tests dissuade students from experimenting with drugs. 
Opponents charge the tests violate students' rights and steer children away 
from activities.

"I think that every school should look at drug testing that is appropriate 
to their student body," said Lawrence Korchnak, Hampton superintendent. 
"The trend is clearly to drug testing. The fact is that drugs are pervasive 
in our society. It's happening more and more."

Korchnak said Hampton does not have a major drug problem, noting that four 
students were disciplined for drug offenses last school year. The 
district's enrollment is about 3,200.

He is backing a policy that calls for testing only students suspected of 
using drugs.

"We're looking at students who have given us reasonable suspicion to 
believe that they may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs," Korchnak 

Under the policy, students would be given a simple saliva test. The test 
would be forwarded to a local laboratory. The district would pay the 
estimated $30 cost per test.

If caught under the influence of drugs, first offenders face a minimum 
45-day expulsion and must be assessed by an outside drug counselor.

The second offense results in a mandatory one-year expulsion. A third 
offense means a permanent expulsion. Students caught selling or attempting 
to sell drugs face a one-year expulsion on the first offense and are out 
for good on the second offense.

"We know the consequence is serious, but this is serious business," 
Korchnak said. "To some people it sounds harsh, but it's not harsh. It's 
life. It's a serious consequence to a serious violation."

Hampton's drug-testing policy could be effective within the next few months.

Seneca Valley School District is in the second year of mandatory drug 
testing for athletes and students who drive to school. With parents' 
permission, students who appear to be under the influence of drugs also can 
be tested.

Seneca Valley has about 3,300 students in grades seven through 12, but only 
about 1,300 are subject to random testing. Of more than 3,200 tests 
conducted last school year, 27 students tested positive for drugs, school 
officials said.

Seneca Valley officials held off plans to expand testing to include other 
extracurricular activities pending the outcome of a Pennsylvania Supreme 
Court case. West Allegheny school officials also are awaiting a decision in 
the case before moving ahead with a proposed drug-testing policy.

In 2000, the Commonwealth Court ruled against Delaware Valley School 
District's random drug testing of all middle and high school students 
involved in extracurricular activities. The court called the testing 

An appeal from the Pike County district is pending in state Supreme Court.

Contrary to the state court, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that 
random drug tests of students involved in activities is constitutional. 
Legal analysts said the issue is murky before of varying degrees of privacy 
granted in the state and federal constitutions.

The issue of students' right to privacy is an especially gray area, 
Duquesne University law professor Ken Gormley said.

Franklin Regional School District is testing more than 1,000 students 
gearing up for after-school activities. The policy calls for mandatory 
testing of seventh-through 12th-grade students involved in extracurricular 
activities. It also allows for further random testing.

The idea is to discourage students from experimenting with drugs and to 
provide early intervention to drug users, said Ron Suvak, Franklin Regional 
athletic director.

Although some parents objected to paying the $29 testing fee, the policy 
otherwise met with little resistance from parents.

Most students seemed resigned to the testing, although some questioned the 
policy as an invasion of privacy.

Chris Henderson, 13, said he would submit to the tests in order to play 
basketball and football. His mother, Kathy, said drug testing should be 
done at the parents' discretion.

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for an end to school-based 
drug testing. ACLU officials cited a recent national study in the Journal 
of School Health that found no difference in the rates of drug use in 
schools with testing.

The study looked at drug use among 76,000 American students. It found that 
testing did not predict the rate of drug use among students, including 

"In light of these findings, schools should be hard-pressed to implement or 
continue a policy that is intrusive and even insulting for their students, 
especially when drug testing fails to deter student drug use," said Graham 
Boyd, director of the ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project.

How Drug Tests Work

*Half of student's urine sample is sent off for testing, and the other half 
is preserved by the testing company.

*Testing is done at labs approved by the government Substance Abuse Mental 
Health Services Administration.

*The initial test uses an immunoassay technique, in which antibodies 
indicate the presence of a drug or metabolite.

*If the initial result is positive for drugs, an official contacts the 
family to ask if the student is taking any medication that would cause a 
false positive. If the parents say there is no medication that could lead 
to a positive, the sample is tested again using gas chromatography/mass 
spectroscopy. These are "100 percent accurate" for a specific substance 
because material is broken down to the molecular level.

*The student or parents may request another test within five days from the 
first notification of a positive result. The preserved half of the urine 
sample is used for the retest, which the family pays for. If the original 
test is a false positive, the student will not be penalized and the family 
will be reimbursed for the cost of the second test.

*Those who want to challenge both tests or the resulting punishment may sue 
the district, although the Seneca Valley School District has never had a 
challenge to a drug test.

Source: Matt Franz, director of operations for Sport Safe Testing Service 
Inc., the company doing the drug testing for Seneca Valley School District
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens