Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jan 2005
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2005 The Eagle-Tribune
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


HAVERHILL -- Two School Committee members say they will fight random drug 
testing of Haverhill High students if it is recommended by a task force 
studying drug use at the school.

Committee members Kerry Fitzgerald and Glen Lewandowski said they are 
against the testing proposed by Committeeman Scott Wood Jr. When discussing 
the proposal  last night, the committee unanimously created the task force 
to study the drug problem at the high school, but stopped short of favoring 
random testing. "I don't support random testing," Fitzgerald said. "I would 
only consider (drug testing) for a student who started acting unusual or if 
there was a noticeable problem."

Despite the opposition last night, Wood refused to take random drug testing 
off the table.

"Looking away or pretending the problem doesn't exist doesn't help 
anybody," he said. "This is to weigh the pros and cons and determine the 
costs and benefits (of drug testing)."

Wood said he proposed the task force and the random testing because he 
believes drug use is on the rise at the high school, based on his own 
knowledge and results of a student survey. His proposal calls for students 
in sports and after-school activities to be tested because the U.S. Supreme 
Court in 2002 gave that power to school districts. There is no case law on 
drug testing an entire student body, he said.

Wood said he will begin assembling names of potential task force members 
immediately and report back to the committee with at least 10 names. He 
said he is looking for parents, students, teachers and law enforcement 
officials. Last night two Haverhill High student athletes said Wood's 
proposal targets the wrong students.

Christine Fitzpatrick, 18, student council president and a captain of the 
swim team, offered this scenario: "You would ask a kid who gets A's and B's 
on their report card, is a member of student council and plays a sport to 
urinate in a plastic cup? That's degrading. I feel better that this is just 
a proposal, but I wanted to speak out immediately to nip it in the bud." 
Student Matt Plumb, a member of the track team, agrees with Wood that there 
is a drug problem at the high school. But he said the committee is 
targeting the wrong people.

"Athletes and kids involved in after-school activities are not the ones 
doing drugs," he said.

Wood, a 2002 graduate of Haverhill High, believes drugs like heroin, 
cocaine and Ecstasy are more available to students today than ever before. 
He said the  2003 Youth Risk Survey, which showed 49 percent of Haverhill 
High students said they have used marijuana and 17 percent have used drugs 
like heroin and cocaine, proves he is right.

Fitzpatrick, the student council president, said students lie on the 
survey. "I don't believe the survey is reliable," she said. "We get a 21/2 
page survey at 7 in the morning with questions like 'Have you ever shot up 
heroin or smoked crack?' The majority of kids think it's funny, lie on it 
and don't take it seriously."

Committeeman Robert Gilman said the committee should let the task force 
investigate the extent of the drug problem and worry about "theoretical and 
constitutional issues" related to drug testing later if it is recommended. 
Committeeman Shaun Toohey praised Wood for bringing the issue to a head. He 
also suggested students may be just as likely to under-report drug use on 
the risk survey as they are to over-report it.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini, who arrived at last night's meeting after the 
committee voted to form the task force, has said he has seen no evidence 
that drug use is on the rise at the high school. He also said the city does 
not have money to pay for testing. Wood said he believes the city could 
seek grant money  to administer the tests.
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