Pubdate: Tue, 17 May 2005
Source: Daily News Tribune (Waltham, MA)
Copyright: 2005 The Daily News Tribune
Author: Christopher Moore
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


WALTHAM -- Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey proposed a substance abuse program on 
Monday that would encourage schools to impose drug testing on students 
after obtaining their parents' permission.

Waltham school officials were not opposed to the idea, saying the testing 
is similar to another program already in place that tied the tests to 
corporate-sponsored giveaways. Students had mixed reactions.

Healey's plan seeks, among other things, $9.1 million to expand substance 
abuse prevention services. With that, the state would provide partial 
funding for performing drug tests on behalf of school districts and for 
related drug counseling. Laura Nicoll, a spokeswoman for Healey, said the 
federal government could provide the remaining funding for those services.

Districts can currently test students for drugs if they participate in some 
extracurricular activities and their parents have signed consent forms.

Healey's plan would call for a voluntary program whereby parents opt to 
give districts the authority to test their students for drugs. Nicoll said 
such an agreement would ideally be reached through a dialogue involving 
parents, teachers and administrators.

Students who tested positive under Healey's plan would not be prosecuted, 
but their parents and schools would be informed and they would be notified 
of treatment options.

Waltham High School Principal John Graceffa said the proposal is similar to 
the Youth Opposed to Using program the high school developed roughly 15 
years ago. However, YOU provided incentives for students to sign up for 
drug testing, in the form of reduced-rate ski trips or restaurant gift 
certificates. Such incentives were provided by businesses or members of the 

"It's lost its effect because we haven't had the community response we used 
to have," said Graceffa. "At one point in time, it was huge."

Graceffa said the incentives also provided an "out" for many students. By 
pointing to the benefits of YOU, students had a good excuse to turn down 
friends who may have encouraged them to do drugs.

However, it only worked for drugs that would show up in a urine test.

"The biggest problem with that program is, it would not deal with the issue 
of alcohol," said Graceffa. "Not to say that illicit drugs are not an 
issue, but many people in general feel that one of the biggest problems 
facing young people today is the use of alcohol. Kids say they're not 
engaging in illegal drugs, but they could be involved in alcohol. We had no 
way of knowing, other than the honor system."

Waltham High School freshman Kettsy Andino was skeptical of Healey's program.

"Why do the parents have to find out about it?" asked Andino.

If such a program were in place at Waltham High School, Andino said she 
knew people who could be affected.

"A lot of my friends," she said.

Fellow freshman Diego Yanez favored the program, though he did not see it 
as a statewide cure-all.

"Maybe not the whole state, but it would help the schools," said Yanez. 
"It's not a lot, but it's something."
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