Pubdate: Wed, 26 Jul 2006
Source: Amory Advertiser (MS)
Copyright: 2006 Journal Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Lena Mitchell, Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Students returning to school next month look forward to  new
experiences: new status, new classes, new teachers,  new activities.

What also awaits many of them are new rules, and in  some cases a new
student random drug testing policy.

Several school districts - Booneville and Prentiss,  Itawamba and
Tishomingo counties among them - are  implementing the new policies
for the 2006-07 academic  year. Five other school districts in the
region also  have drug-testing policies for some or all their  students.

"Our students deserve a safe and secure environment to  learn, and
this policy is designed to ensure that,"  said Malcolm Kuykendall,
Tishomingo County's newly  appointed superintendent.

Likewise, Prentiss County will implement a random drug  testing policy
after examining those used in other area  districts and the prototype
available through the state  Department of Education.

However, where the new policy in Tishomingo County and  Booneville
schools will apply onlyto students involved  in extracurricular
activities like band and sports, the  Prentiss County policy will
apply to all students,  faculty and staff.

"We're going to use ours to randomly drug test any kid  in school or
any employee who works for the district,"  said Prentiss County
superintendent Kenneth Chism. "We  just included everybody."

Tishomingo County's random testing of students also  will apply to
students who drive vehicles to school.

Effectiveness questioned

Student drug testing is not without its opponents, who  insist
research does not support the policies making  any difference on
whether young people use drugs.

A 2003 study sponsored by the National Institute on  Drug Abuse that
included 94,000 students in 900  American schools, half with a drug
testing policy and  half without, found there was no difference in
illegal  drug use among students, said Jennifer Kern,  spokeswoman for
the Drug Policy Alliance Legal Affairs  Department.

Those results were confirmed in a followup study by the  Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation, she said.

Although they did not have this data when making a  decision about the
Booneville School District policy,  superintendent Larry Morgan said
the school board  considered data from the U.S. Office of National
Drug  Control Policy and recommendations from other

"Our information basically has come from talking with  other school
districts which have previously had this  policy," he said.

In Booneville, the policy will include random testing  as well as
testing if there is a suspicion of illegal  drug use by students
participating in band and all  sports, said Morgan.

"That will probably expand as we go each year," he  said. "We looked
at a lot of policies from other school  districts and collected
materials over a period of time  before putting ours together using
information from all  those sources."

Year's experience

South Tippah County School District implemented a  student random drug
testing policy during the 2005-06  school year, and superintendent
Wardell Herring said no  one tested positive for drugs throughout the

"In all of our communities, there are potential drug  situations
available to our students," Herring said.  "What we're trying to do
more than anything is help our  students be successful, and we feel
the drug culture  does not promote a healthy learning body or

Consequences of testing positive on the random drug  test escalate
from a first offense through multiple  offenses.

Penalties range in the different districts from  suspension from
activities and driving to school on a  first offense, and referral to
counseling, to referral  to alternative school, one year's suspension
and/or  expulsion for additional offenses.

Each district indicated the priority is to get parents  involved, get
help for the student and deter further  use of illegal substances.

"We are serious about caring for our students, and I do  believe
having a drug policy in our district has had a  positive impact on our
district," Herring said. "We've  had positive feedback from parents
and the community."

The state Department of Education supports student drug  testing, a
department spokeswoman said, and through the  Division of Safe and
Orderly Schools offers guidelines  to help school districts develop
their own policies.

Do they test or not?


- - Alcorn County: no

- - Benton County: no

- - Booneville: starts 2006-07 school year

- - Calhoun - no

- - Chickasaw County: no

- - Corinth: no

- - Itawamba County: starts 2006-07 school year

- - Lafayette County: yes

- - Lee County: no

- - Monroe County: no

- - New Albany: yes

- - North Tippah County: no

- - Oktibbeha County: no

- - Oxford: no

- - Pontotoc City: no

- - Pontotoc County: no

- - Prentiss County: starts 2006-07 school year

- - South Tippah County: yes

- - Starkville: no

- - TCPS: no

- - Tishomingo County: starts 2006-07 school year

- - Tupelo: athletes only

- - Union County: yes

For more information about school drug testing:  Missississippi
Department of Education, Division on  Safe and Orderly Schools:

What's your opinion on the student drug testing issue?  We want to
hear from you. E-mail comments to   include
your name, address and  phone number. Comments will be posted online
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