Parents' Input Sought for School Drug Testing Policy
Board of Education delays vote on whether to continue program while gathering parent feedback.
The Board of Education board has postponed until the fall a vote on whether to abolish the school district’s random drug testing policy.
The board was scheduled for a vote on Monday night, but opted to table the measure in order to receive more input from the public.
The controversial issue again split the board, with some favoring the abolition of the policy and others saying it is another weapon in “the war against drug use.”
Thuy Anh Le, chairwoman of the board’s Education Committee, said at the July 9 board meeting that the recommendation to stop the program was made after reviewing the program’s results since it was implemented in the 2008-09 school year.
Le said the program showed “inconclusive results” and the goal of an annual 5 percent reduction in drug use had not been met.
A PowerPoint presentation on the program’s results had been presented.
At Monday’s meeting, Board President Thomas Kinst said he was in favor of abolishing the program because drug use not on school grounds “is not our jurisdiction.”
Kinst said it should be the responsibility of parents to have their children tested for drug use.
Board member Greg Gillette reiterated his opposition to the program, agreeing with Kinst.
"It’s a family matter,” he said, adding that parents could take their children to a doctor’s office for a drug screening.
Gillette also was critical of court decisions that said only students participating in sports and other extracurricular activities could be tested for drugs.
Board member Chris Pulsifer said the school district does not have enough data to judge whether the program has been successful.
“It’s clear we have a problem,” he said. "We don’t have good statistics."
Pulsifer said the drug testing is “no panacea” but added that the school district should “take advantage of every weapon we have in the war against drugs.”
Board member Dana Boguszewski, a nurse, said she believes it is important to involve parents in the anti-drug effort, but noted that the district’s tests only screen for marijuana and alcohol.
“Synthetic stuff is not going to come up,” she said.
Boguszewski said she wanted more input from parents before voting on whether to abolish the policy and suggested delaying the vote until fall.
Board member Judith Haas said she wanted research done on more effective ways to reduce drug use. She also said a policy that only tested students participating in extracurricular activities was “questionable.”
Board member Jennifer Haley said she was “very disappointed” that the recommendation to stop the program was made after only 50 students were tested in the 2 2011-12 school year.
After “a lot of soul-searching” and discussions with her husband, a law enforcement officer, Haley said she was not in favor of stopping the program.
Haley said the school district “has to come up with a better approach.”
Board member Lorraine Soisson said the district “has to come to terms with the intent of the program” and design the program so it acts more as a deterrent.
Kinst urged community members to come to board members to voice their opinions about the program. He also said a survey will be posted on the school district’s website.
"I believe we will get more input,” Pulsifer said.