Pubdate: Wed, 19 May 2004
Source: Birmingham Post-Herald (AL)
Copyright: 2004 Birmingham Post Co.
Author: William C. Singleton III
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


School Officials, Students Support Plan

Clay-Chalkville High sophomore Jacob Sittre, 15, said the widespread use of 
drugs among students has given the school an unflattering nickname.

"They call us the 'fighting pharmacy,' " he said as his friends nodded in 

While school officials downplay the prevalence of drugs at Clay-Chalkville, 
they acknowledge it's a problem they want to cut off before it gets worse. 
As a result, Clay-Chalkville High officials want to institute a pilot 
random drug-testing program at the beginning of the school year in August.

Students involved in sports and other extra-curricular activities such as 
cheerleading, band or the debate team would be subject to the test. 
Students who drive to school and park on school grounds also would be tested.

"It's not that Clay-Chalkville has any more problems with drugs than 
anyplace else," said Jerry Mitchell, Jefferson County school deputy 
superintendent for instructional services. "We know it exists in all high 
schools and in all places where kids experiment with drugs. We would just 
like to be proactive instead of reactive with those kids."

Mitchell said if Clay-Chalkville High's random drug testing program proves 
successful, it could be implemented countywide.

"There is the possibility that if it is successful at Clay-Chalkville High 
School, it could be looked at in another period of time, probably next 
year, to see if there is the possibility of extending it," he said.

But first things first, Mitchell said.

Clay-Chalkville High School Principal Randle Cassady presented the idea for 
drug testing to school board members during a committee meeting Tuesday. 
The board is reviewing the policy and is scheduled to vote on it at a 
meeting next month.

If the plan is approved, Clay-Chalkville High would join school systems in 
Hoover, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills and Shelby County that conduct 
random drug testing.

Jefferson County school Superintendent Phil Hammonds said the county does 
not have a drug testing policy. It handles drug-related infractions on 
campus through its student code of conduct. According to the code, a 
student found in possession of an illegal substance faces suspension and a 
disciplinary hearing for possible expulsion.

Under the pilot program, if a student is found to have drugs in his system, 
he could be removed from the sport or activity and receive mandatory 

The student would have to test negative for drugs before he or she would be 
permitted to return to the extracurricular activity, Mitchell said.

"It's another way of kids to say, 'No, I'm not even going to run the risk 
of being caught,' " he said.

Jefferson County school board member Tommy Little said the proposal has 
been discussed in the community for nearly a year. Little, who is also 
president of the Clay-Chalkville Parents Teachers and Student Association, 
said he's trying to stay out of the discussion because he will have to vote 
on it as a board member.

"As a parent, I'm very much in support of it," he said.

Little said he hopes the public doesn't perceive that Clay-Chalkville has a 
significant drug problem.

"Obviously you have to look at the size of the school (with about 1,400), 
and I think proportionately there's not a tremendous problem," he said. 
"But even with one student, we want to have intervention if we can."

Little said the pilot program won't be funded by the school system. 
However, if the school system were to adopt it countywide, it would have to 
look into funding.

A private company would likely administer the testing, he said.

Many students at Clay-Chalkville said they have no problems with random 
testing. Shawna Belcher, 14, a ninth-grade student and cheerleader, said 
the policy would protect the integrity of sports and give parents a sense 
of assurance.

"I think it's OK drug-testing us," Shawna said. "It gives adults more 
information that we're not doing anything that would cause us to faint or 
have a serious problem on the field."

Shawna said her coach already has talked to the cheerleaders about the 
proposed policy.

"She said just don't do drugs, and you don't have anything to worry about," 
the cheerleader said.

Taylor Jones, a 16-year-old sophomore, had a matter-of-fact attitude about 
the proposed policy.

"As long as I don't have to pay for it, I really don't care," he said.

Jones, who runs cross-country track, said he hopes the policy curtails drug 
use among students.

"I hope it cuts down on all the drugs we have at school because it's really 
bad, and it gets out of hand."

He also said it would be good for sports. "We don't want any druggies 
running with us," Jones said.

Jacob's mother, Donna Sittre, said the policy gives parents some comfort.

"Drugs are illegal, and they affect our children's minds and abilities," 
she said. "That (drug testing) will help us as parents know what's going on 
with our children, too."

Cassady did not return calls seeking comment.
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