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District: More study needed on drug testing

Survey finds parents, students, staff oppose it.

Posted: March 27, 2008 2:10 a.m.
Updated: May 28, 2008 5:03 a.m.

After listening to a report from the District Advisory Committee on drug testing and discussing various options available to decrease student drug use, Hart district governing board members decided more study is needed before they make a decision on whether or not to implement a mandatory drug testing program for students in extracurricular activities.

Committee president Marc Emmer presented the report to board members at the March 19 meeting. His committee found that parents, students and staff surveyed in the William S. Hart Union High School District almost all opposed drug testing of students.

"An overwhelming majority of the people we spoke to - particularly parents - felt that drug testing is the responsibility of parents,"

Emmer told the board. "Many believed that drugs are used by students in our schools - we're not saying that. We're just saying that maybe (drug testing) isn't the answer."

The committee's nonscientific study found that, while there is clearly a minority that does support testing, most people surveyed felt that drug testing is not the answer to the student drug problem and that the issue is so polarizing it could threaten the quality of education in the community.

"We're not here to present our own opinion, but those of the people we have talked to over the past months," Emmer said.

Despite the results of the survey, some board members were still in favor of drug testing and recommended that district staff develop a program so that people have more information about what testing would involve.

"I'd like to tailor a program that I think we could sell to this community," Board Member Dennis King said, calling the survey results premature. "I just want people to have an open mind."

King and board member Steve Sturgeon were in favor of a drug testing program, Paul Strickland leaned toward endorsing the program, while Patricia Hanrion voiced concerns and Gloria Mercado-Fortine was opposed to the program.

"I think we should take the recommendation of the DAC and look at other programs," said Mercado-Fortine, adding that district staff would be taking their focus off education in order to design a drug testing program. "I think there are other things we need to do first."

Mercado-Fortine and Hanrion want to increase drug prevention education and counseling.

"Drug education is a nice thing to talk about, but it doesn't do anything," King said. "How can we expect our students to take drug use seriously if we as a district don't?"

Student Board Member Sean Herron, a senior at West Ranch High School, is strongly opposed to student drug testing and said most of the students he talks to feel the same way. He said the American Medical Association is also opposed to the idea.

"I feel that if our parents, students, administrators and even our doctors are opposed to it, why are we still pursuing it?" Herron asked the board. "We need to invest our money in educating students."

No decision was made regarding student drug testing during the meeting. Superintendent Jaime Castellanos will continue to work with the board to develop a consensus on the direction the district will take on this issue.


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