Pubdate: Fri, 06 May 2005
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2005 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Mike Wereschagin
Cited: Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


Plenty of privacy concerns pop up in the debate over mandatory drug
testing in schools, but none of them outweigh the opportunity to keep
a child on the straight and narrow, the deputy director of the White
House Office of National Drug Control Policy said Thursday during a
visit to Moon.

After addressing a group of about 100 school teachers and
administrators as part of a four-city tour to promote testing, Mary
Ann Solberg told reporters she once opposed forcing students to submit
to such tests, which critics say violate students' privacy and don't
do much to stop drug use.

Solberg said she changed her mind after meeting a recovering heroin
addict who said she wished she had been able to use mandatory testing
as an excuse to turn down drugs the first time she was offered them.

Now, Solberg said she favors school testing programs, so long as
they're only one part of a comprehensive drug control program; the
results remain confidential and don't go into a student's file; and
students who test positive are given treatment rather than being
punished or handed over to police.

"This is not an opportunity to single out students and punish them,"
Solberg said.

Forcing the tests can be a punishment in itself and could confuse
students about broader civic issues, said Tom Angell, spokesman for
Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Angell has followed Solberg to her
seminars in Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Portland, Ore.

"It sends a really mixed message to students where on one hand, in
civics class we're teaching them about their Fourth Amendment rights,
and on the other hand, we're treating them like they're guilty until
proven innocent," Angell said.

The bond of trust between educators and students is damaged when
"students are forced into bathroom stalls while educators stand
outside the door listening for the sounds of urination," he said.

The federal and Pennsylvania governments don't track the number of
schools with mandatory drug tests, though several in Western
Pennsylvania have launched testing programs. Among them is the Seneca
Valley School District in Butler County, which has been testing
students for three years, recently claiming its program has curbed
drug use.

"I believe it is a deterrent," said Evan Adams, 17, Seneca Valley's
student council vice present and a wide receiver on the school's
football team. "I know a lot of kids who set a certain date where
they'll stop doing things specifically so they can pass the drug test."

He said other students he's spoken with about the testing agree with
Solberg's assertion that if it keeps "just one kid from messing up his
life," that overrides any privacy concerns. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake