Pubdate: Wed, 26 Jan 2005
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2005 The Eagle-Tribune
Author: Shawn Regan
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Drug Test)


HAVERHILL -- Saying there is a growing drug problem at Haverhill High, 
School Committeeman Scott W. Wood Jr. wants the city to consider random 
drug testing of students and athletes.

"There is a drug problem in Haverhill and as elected officials we
should not bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn't exist,"
said Woods, a 2002 Haverhill High School graduate "There needs to be
consequences and a mechanism  to deal with drug use by students. In my
opinion, it takes education combined  with punishment to keep kids off

At tomorrow night's School Committee meeting, Wood is going to call
for a task force to develop a policy to implement the testing. Wood,
who is training to be a police officer at the state police academy,
says the need for the testing is evident.

Hard drugs like heroin and Ecstasy are more available to students
today than ever before, Wood says. He points to the 2003 Youth Risk
Survey, which found 17  percent of Haverhill High students said they
have used hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin or Ecstasy -- up 2
percent from 2002. Results of the 2004 Youth  Risk Survey are expected
in the next few weeks. He also bases his belief on his own personal
and recent experience as a high school student and conversations he
has had with law enforcement officials, high  school students and
recent high school graduates. Wood's task force would include
teachers, students, parents, law enforcement officials and School
Committee members. He said he has talked to other committee  members
about his idea and he believes he has enough support at least to form
the task force.

School Committeeman Robert Gilman said he supports a "fact-finding"
task force to research and document the extent of student drug use.
Gilman said he was an associate principal at the high school in 1995
when a state police raid turned up "plenty of evidence that drugs were
a big problem at the high school." "If drugs are on the rise again or
if there are new drugs out there, then we need to seriously think
about an aggressive response," Gilman said. Should Wood's proposal go
forward, Gilman said the real controversy will be over how the
district would implement drug testing and whether only students in
after-school activities would be tested.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he opposes the random drug testing of
students because he has seen no evidence to suggest drug use is on the
rise at the high  school. He also said the city does not have the
money to pay for drug testing. "I'd have to see statistical evidence
before I'd consider violating the rights of students, the vast
majority of whom aren't using drugs," Fiorentini said. Police Chief
Alan R. DeNaro could not be reached for comment. School Superintendent
Arthur W. Tate Jr. said he wanted to hear from Wood at tomorrow's
meeting before commenting.

There is precedent in Massachusetts and in the courts for drug testing
of students involved in extracurricular activities.

Assabet Valley Vocational Technical High School in Marlborough and
Northeast Vocational High School in Wakefield test students in clubs,
athletics and other  after-school activities for drug use. And in June
2002, the U.S. Supreme Court  ruled it is permissible to drug test
middle and high school students participating in extracurricular activities.

In nearby Salem, Mass., a city engulfed in an epidemic of heroin and
prescription drug abuse, School Superintendent Herbert Levine said
earlier this month that he is exploring how to implement random drug
testing of student athletes and others who take part in
extracurricular activities. Levine's 19-year-old son Joel is a
recovering OxyContin addict. Wood will make his presentation at
tomorrow's School Committee meeting at 7 p.m. in City Hall.
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