Pubdate: Sat, 19 May 2007
Source: Herald Bulletin, The (Anderson, IN)
Copyright: 2007 The Herald Bulletin


Alexandria's new random drug-testing policy, which takes effect this
fall, is modeled on those of other school systems in the state and
will include students who drive to school or participate in sports or
extracurricular activities. A testing policy for the entire student
body is illegal, according to Alexandria Community Schools
Superintendent Jim Willey.

These policies are problematic in that they concentrate on groups
instead of the whole and, despite protestations from school officials,
are fundamentally punitive.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Board of Education of
Pottawamie vs. Earls that students who participate in extracurricular
activities can be drug-tested. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled the
same in Linke vs. Northwestern School Corp., also in 2002.

School officials will argue that the prevalence of drugs means that
the searches are not unreasonable, a part of the Fourth Amendment. It
is argued that the safety of students is paramount, as is protecting
them from the ravages of drugs.

Alexandria's policy will test for marijuana, cocaine, opiates,
amphetamines and methamphetamines. Tests will not be run for alcohol
or tobacco. Willey explained that, if someone were using alcohol, the
smell, along with other factors, would be a tip-off. In other words,
there would be probable cause for testing someone for alcohol.

School board president Thomas Gaunt insisted it isn't a punitive
policy, but the punishment begins right after the first offense.
Students can't drive to school for 90 days, and athletes have to give
up 50 percent of games. There is also an amnesty policy for those who
agree to go to counseling.

It seems that punishing students and preventing them from taking
advantage of school activities would exacerbate the problem by pushing
students the wrong way. If they are shut out from school activities,
it would follow that they would be more vulnerable to the behavior
that got them in trouble in the first place.

We can understand schools wanting to take a proactive approach to drug
prevention. We take issue with the punishment and the selectivity of
the students. In the long run, this could harm students by ostracizing
them from the student body.

We'd like to see the counseling as the main part of the policy, not as
an amnesty afterthought. The punishment should come only after
continued drug-testing failures. We don't want to see the policy do
more harm than good, and unless school officials sharply curtail the
punishment and concentrate on counseling, that is what will happen.
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