Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jul 2005
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Advertiser Co.
Author: Erin Elaine Mosely
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


TALLASSEE -- School systems in Alabama are not required to test
athletes or students in extracurricular activities for drugs, but
Tallassee school officials test their students.

Because of their experience in the area, James Jeffers, superintendent
of Tallassee City Schools, and Carl Stewart, principal of Tallassee
High School, traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to participate in
a conference about drug testing in high school.

"We think it's the right thing to do for our kids," Jeffers

The Institute for Behavior and Health held the conference and
Tallassee City Schools was one of seven systems represented. While
drafting Tallassee City Schools' drug testing policy a couple of years
ago, Jeffers discovered the Oregon-based organization. He applied to
become one of the pilot schools and received a grant to participate in
the program.

"We're the only rural city school in the program," Jeffers said. "We
were meeting the expectations of how many students should be tested.
They felt we would be a microcosm of all students who are drug-tested
because of our free and reduced lunch split, and we had some things
the others didn't have."

Stewart presented data he collected from his school's drug testing. At
Tallassee, students in athletics and extra-curricular activities are
tested for drugs once a month during the school year. Students are not
tested in the summer. A federal grant pays for Tallassee's drug tests.

"Dr. Jeffers and I talked about what we do at Tallassee," he said. "We
just gave an overview of the types of drugs we're confronted with. We
randomly drug test ... about 90 percent are tobacco. We have had some
others. My head is not stuck in the sand, I know that there will be
other (drugs) that show up."

Stewart readily admits that the drug-testing program does hurt the
athletics program, but he said it's worth it if students are deterred
from taking drugs.

"It's an awareness process," Stewart said.

Jeffers agreed. He said the conference provided valuable research on
the affect drug testing has at a school. Other schools that
participated ranged from Indiana and Michigan to California.

"For us it was an opportunity to get real data based on what we were
doing -- plus eight other schools and the information they were giving
- -- and what affect it was having on our school system," he said. "The
data showed all of the seven school systems in the program are making
good progress. And we're one of them."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin