Pubdate: Fri, 15 Dec 2006
Source: Tucson Citizen (AZ)
Copyright: 2006 Tucson Citizen
Author: Anne T. Denogean, Tucson Citizen
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Salpointe Catholic High School regularly brings in drug-sniffing dogs,
requires parents to attend a forum on substance abuse prevention and
has students walk through alcohol sensors before attending school functions.

It's all part of a proactive substance abuse prevention program. But
does Salpointe's latest effort to rein in drug use among its students
go too far?

On Monday, the school announced it will implement mandatory drug
testing for all students next fall. Students will provide a strand of
hair for a test that can detect drug use dating back 90 days, said
Mike Urbanski, Salpointe's head of student services.

Anyone who fails the test would be directed to counseling and retested
100 days later. The consequences for a second positive test would
range from more counseling to expulsion, Urbanski said.

"We are not trying to be punitive," he said. "The purpose of it is to
support (students), if they are not using, to give them a reason not
to and if they are using, to give them a reason to stop."

Urbanski said the policy is finding widespread support among

That was the case with several contacted this week.  "I don't have a
problem with it at all," said Alice Morkert, parent of a sophomore. "I
feel that it's just another tool that kids can use . . . when peer
pressure comes their way, to get them out of the situation."

"I personally think it's awesome," said Lisa Dorame, a member of the
Salpointe Parent Association. "This is my son's senior year. It would
have been great to have a policy implemented earlier. . . . I think
most of the people that it's going to bother and affect are those who
have a problem."

"I think it's unfortunate on a societal level that it's needed, but at
Salpointe we take having a drug-free environment very seriously," said
Phil Lacovara, parent of a junior. "I think giving students the tools
to say 'no' and parents the tools to know what their kids are up to
are both very valuable things."

This has been a hot topic this week among Salpointe students, with a
fair number coming out in support of testing.

"I am completely for it," said junior Nick Dugan. "I agree that drugs
are a problem at Salpointe. There are a large number of people, even
in my class, that I know do drugs. And to me, that's a shame. . . .

"My family pays a lot of money for me to go to a high-quality school
like that. And to have people in my class that do drugs takes away
from my whole high school career and from my education quality. I
don't need people who are just going to throw their lives away to be
in my same class."

Of the six parents interviewed, only Nick's father, Chuck Dugan,
expressed opposition to the policy.

"I don't think you should be allowed to take everyone's liberties away
in the name of what you think is solving a problem," he said. "Almost
anybody you ask is willing to give up their civil liberties for what
they perceive as the right way to go. . . . I think this is a big, big

He worries about the message it sends to Salpointe

"Salpointe is one of the top college preps in the state. Here they are
trotting out all this stuff about how their students are the tops. . .
. And here we are, developing a bunch of sheep who are supposed to go
in and say, 'OK, go ahead and drug-test me.' Well, why?"  This
columnist is ambivalent.

Mandatory drug testing will go a long way toward eradicating drug use
among Salpointe students. The good of that can't be

I also recognize that Salpointe is a private institution that can set
its own rules and is following the lead of 150 other Catholic schools
that have instituted mandatory testing.

But it's troubling that the relinquishment of the students' civil
liberties - the right to privacy and the right to a presumption of
innocence - is seen as no big deal. Of the parents I spoke to, only
Dugan even broached the topic.

We live in an era in which civil liberties are too easily sacrificed
in the name of fear.

Salpointe students, tomorrow's leaders, are being prepped to continue
this erosion.

I wonder what the reaction would be if Salpointe's teachers - and,
because it's no big deal, let's throw in the parents - were also
required to undergo annual mandatory testing in the name of providing
a truly drug-free environment for Salpointe students.
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