Pubdate: Thu, 11 Sep 2008
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2008 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author:  J. J. Stambaugh
Referenced: Letter from ACLU demanding Roane County abandon illegal 
random drug testing of students
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


Group: Screening Student Athletes Against State Law

The American Civil Liberties Union told the Roane County school system
Wednesday that it may face a lawsuit if it doesn't end its policy of
conducting random drug tests of student athletes.

The ACLU sent a letter today to the school system claiming the policy
is in violation of state law and that random drug testing "is proven
to be ineffective in deterring drug use," a press release from the
organization said.

The ACLU is giving the school system 30 days to abandon the random
tests before taking legal action.

The school system's policy was first instituted in 1995 and was hailed
as the first of its kind in the state. At the time, officials
described the policy as essentially voluntary and said that student
athletes have a lesser expectation of privacy because students aren't
required by law to play sports.

The ACLU is acting on behalf of David Higgins, whose daughter is a
ninth-grader at Harriman High School, the release said. Higgins also
is a volunteer softball and basketball coach.

"His daughter has been drug tested without cause eight times in recent
years," the release said. "All eight tests have been negative."

According to the ACLU, Higgins tried to no avail to address his
concerns with school board members.

"It is very unsettling to me as a parent that school officials would
subject our children to such embarrassing and degrading practices by
forcing them to create urine samples in order to participate in the
sports program," Higgins said in the release. "I just hope that school
officials come to their senses and do what is right by both Tennessee
law and common decency."

Roane County Director of Schools Toni McGriff said she couldn't
comment because she hadn't received a copy of the letter.

Roane County school board chairman Everett Massengill, who has served
on the school board since 1990 and helped draft the policy, said the
goal was to educate students about the consequences of drug use rather
than to catch drug users.

"I think it's a good policy," Massengill said.

"I think this has been effective. You never know what the results have
been, how many students have been kept off drugs because of it."

Massengill said there have been no prior complaints about the policy
and he expects the issue to be addressed at its Sept. 18 meeting.

"Random drug testing is not only patently illegal under state law, but
demonstrably ineffective and frequently counterproductive," according
to Hedy Weinberg, who is the executive director of the ACLU of
Tennessee. "These unsubstantiated searches make a mockery of the
civics lessons taught in our classrooms and should be roundly and
readily rejected by parents and school officials alike."
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