Random Drug Testing to Remain at High School

With passionate remarks on both sides, BOE votes to retain controversial policy.

By a 6-3 vote, the Board of Education decided on Monday evening to retain the district’s random drug testing policy.

After months of discussion and gathering input from the community, the majority of board members believed that while the program may be flawed and produced inconclusive results, the random testing was a valuable tool in the ongoing effort to combat adolescent drug use in the community.

The vote came after several members of the community spoke in favor of keeping the policy. One resident, Mary Fougere, a neighbor of the high school, made accusations that she has witnessed drug use and alleged drug deals near her home.

“This is life and death,” Fougere said, adding that the program gives the school district a chance to “intervene” with a student who may be using drugs. The policy also carries the message “that we’re taking drug use seriously.”

“It’s a great school system,” she said. “We can’t let these kids down.”

Another township resident, former Z100 morning personality John Bell who was known as the “Voice of Reason,” also voiced support for keeping the policy. Bell, who now devotes his time to bringing an anti-drug message to young people, likened the random drug testing to installing a red light camera at an intersection.

“Kids are afraid of being caught and paying for it,” he said.

“We should do whatever we can to do to deter them from the beginning,” he said.

Jake Cohen, the student representative to the board, said most students favor the drug testing, but said it should be an “all or nothing” policy. “More than 10 percent of the students should be tested,” he said.

The Hillsborough High student said that now the peer pressure to experiment with drugs is “greater than the fear of getting caught.”

Under the terms of the policy, only students who are involved in extracurricular activities or who have parking privileges are subject to the random drug testing (more than 90 percent of the high school enrollment). However, no more than 200 students have been tested annually since the program went into effect.

Earlier this year, the board’s Education Committee recommended that the policy be abolished. In July, Thuy Anh Le, chairwoman of the committee, said that the recommendation was made after reviewing the program’s results since it was implemented in the 2008-09 school year.

Le said the program showed “inconclusive reports” and the goal of an annual 5 percent reduction in drug use was not met.

However, at Monday’s meeting, Le said the committee had taken another vote on the issue and decided not to recommend ending the policy.

Le pointed to the results of a questionnaire posted on the district’s web site that garnered 747 responses. Of those responses, 64 percent were in favor of keeping the policy while 36 percent wanted the policy abolished.

Le also reported that a majority of respondents were in favor of more canine sniffs of school premises to find drugs.

Le said the committee decided to reverse its position “for lack of a better solution.”

Another alternative of students either opting in or out of the program could face legal challenges, Superintendent of Schools Jorden Schiff said.

Board member Deena Centofanti said she would like to see more students being tested and said parents see the program is a “safety net.” “We should keep the safety net in place,” she said.

Board member Jennifer Haley said most parents see the testing as a “positive program.”

“We’re here to respect the will of the community,” she said.

But board member Greg Gillette, who opposed the implementation of the program in 2008 and is still opposed to it, was emphatic in his opposition.

He said the program was a “feel-good” approach that is “wasting” the school district’s resources.

Gillette said the school district has taken four years “to realize what 90 percent of the high schools in New Jersey already know.”

“They know it doesn’t work and it’s not a deterrent,” he said.

Saying he still harbors doubts about the constitutionality of the program, Gillette said the random drug testing was like “putting my mom through a full patdown at Newark Airport.”

Board member Judith Haas reiterated her opposition to the program.

“Alcohol is a bigger problem,” she said. “This policy does not do anything about that.”

Haas also said that the program is only in effect during the school year and “random drug testing doesn’t do a damn thing for our kids during summertime.”

She urged the school district to increase its drug education and counseling; she also supported the return of the DARE anti-drug program at the elementary level. The program was cut because of budgetary restraints.

Voting to abolish the program were Gillette, Haas and Thomas Kinst. Voting to keep the program were Haley, Centofanti, Le, Dana Boguszewski,  Christopher Pulsifer and Lorraine A. Soisson

dubious October 23, 2012 at 12:37 PM
It's unfortunately that we have to do these things, but the reality is that drugs in schools is a problem. RDT should not be the only measure used, but it can serve as a deterrent. The right decision by the BOE.
Dolores Good October 23, 2012 at 02:09 PM
O know that the kids hate it, but I think it should be done randomly, but eventually having everyone tested, but the students cannot know beforehand when the testing will be done. I realize that this would be hard to test each student and costly, but are we getting any results?
Edward P. Campbell October 23, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Parents be parents and test your own kids!
d October 23, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Good decision by the BOE - anything in place that can potentially save a life of a student is well worth the cost.
BoomBoom October 23, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Kudos to Judy, Greg, and Tom for acting to uphold the basic rights of unlawful search and siezure. If this anti-constitutional nonsense were tried at people's homes there would be law suits flying. A program that cannot meet it's goals and does not work should be abandoned, and that money put into something that is actually educational. The whole notion of "guilty until proven innocent" does not work unless you are in traffic court.
Toby Kansagor October 23, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Congratulations to the BOE. We are showing the students that Hillsborough will do what it can to keep them alive. I do agree that we should extend this program to more students.
brian fischer October 24, 2012 at 01:53 AM
its not in homes, its in a school where we pay thousands per year to educate kids
David Wald October 24, 2012 at 02:21 PM
THANKS! This was the right thing to do. Let's look at it this way, we send our kids to school so that they can learn and develop in adults and go off to college and eventually make our country a better place. I want my children to do better than me and drugs are an unlawful distraction that can harm them in so many ways. Remember "Say no to drugs"? It still applies! I do find fault with the school district on three things though. #1 Drug testing should be for every student and not select groups #2 The DARE program needs to be put back in place regardless of cost #3 A few years ago we cut the Police presence at a few schools and this needs to also be put back in place and possibly expanded or perhaps a security patrol needs to be implemented or both. Lets make the schools about education and maks sure that every child has the opportunity to be the best they can and with our support they can achieve this.
residentgood October 26, 2012 at 09:31 PM
#1: Not a BOE decision; this was decided by the State Supreme Court; BOE would almost certainly extend it to all students if allowed #2: I believe this was a Township decision, reallocating the cost of the officers so complain to the TC #3 Again, see the TC about police presence, that is one way they have saved money. So cut the BOE a break, your complaints are out of their control.
residentgood October 26, 2012 at 09:40 PM
@Boom: lawful by state court decision. This "nonsense" is tried by most employers nowadays. The "meet its goals" and "does not work" is a bit tougher to get straight. I am certain you would argue that if it achieved its goals of no positive tests your argument would then be that there is no drug problem so the program is pointless. What is distressing is the number of positive test despite the knowledge that they may be tested. That being said, the good part of the program is that with each positive test a student is identified with a drug problem and receives counseling and assistance with the potential of correcting a previously unknown, troubled pathway.
Frank Grabas October 28, 2012 at 12:40 PM
As I stated in a previous email let the politicians and police lead the way by taking the drug test and showing the kids that they have nothing to fear. This move could set a precedent across the country and give the kids some kind of heroes to look up to, not the drugged athletes and Hollywood stars. But we all know better, don't we?
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Patti Buckle January 12, 2013 at 06:14 AM
In order to be effective, drug testing should definately be for all students and not just a select group. In listening to the kids talk about the program, It was a joke to them because any students that signed the consent form to be randomly tested were not drug users. The kids that used drugs never even brought the forms home to be signed and some parents didn't even know the forms existed.
Edward P. Campbell January 12, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Ms. Buckle, In order to be effective child rearing should be done by the parents, not the government! If you can’t look your teenager in the face and say, because we are very concerned for your wellbeing, and because we as parents really do know and understand what goes on in your world. We are taking you to the doctors to be tested for drugs. Then you in my opinion you are a ineffective parent. Also, do you know that drug testing of this nature is a billion dollar a year industry? Do you know how many false positives occur yearly? Do you know common ingredients in many teeth whitening tooth pastes can and has cause false positives? Does the school or testing lab they use know that? Have you ever goggled how to pass a drug test? You should, it might surprise the daylights out of you. You might find too, that your children already have. The idea of being a parent is to be a parent, not a friend! It is a huge mistake to shuffle off your parental responsibilities to other people, and to shuffle them off to the government is simply unbelievable at least in my mind! NEVER, and I mean NEVER would I allow the government to be that intrusive in my family’s life! We live in America, not the Nanny State!
Patti Buckle January 13, 2013 at 07:39 AM
Mr Campbell, I have not shuffled my parental responsibilities to others, especially not to the government as I feel they are already too involved in our lives. Fortunately I have done a great job at parenting both of my daughters who have both graduated from the Hillsborough Schools. I have looked my girls in the face many times and still have no problem doing so if I have a concern about their wellbeing. Neither one of them experimented with drugs but knew many fellow students that did. My comment was simply based on what I over heard when my daughters friends were at my home chatting about the drug testing at the high school. There were kids who opted to park by Bagel Bop instead of getting a parking pass at the school which meant they had to submit to the random drug testing. Others dropped out of thier extra curricular activities when it became mandatory that they submit their permission to be randomly tested if they were involved in these. If my child did that, I would have certainly been concerned enough to find out why. For all the money it costs for this program and the high number of teens doing drugs or illegally drinking, I simply don't think the program should remain in place.
Edward P. Campbell January 13, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Ms. Buckle. I owe you an apology for my personal attack on your parenting abilities. Sorry. You might find this interesting – You stated that all students should be subjected to RDT, and as we all know RDT has been ruled constitutional. However, it was only ruled constitutional because it was not implemented across the entire student population, and in fact it was noted by the judges that indeed the government was with-in its legal bounds because a student could avoid RDT by (and I’m paraphrasing now) opting to park at Bagel Bop, or dropping out of their extracurricular activities. Again, I apology for attacking you, when my intention was to attack this program which is a flat out, abysmal, attack on the 4th amendment. An amendment written to stop the very government's excessive involvement in our lives that you complained about.
Patti Buckle January 14, 2013 at 05:05 AM
I accept your apology Mr Campbell. Thank you for the facts you stated above.On another subject I feel victimized by, I am still trying to find out why we are now being photographed and video taped in our automobiles! Since the students found their way around drug testing, I am sure someone will figure out a way to avoid having their pictures taken. We can't even discretely pick our noses in our cars anymore! LOL!
Mark January 14, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Le said the committee decided to reverse its position “for lack of a better solution.” This statement says more than the article states. Thnak you Ms. Le for finding a "better solution".
Mark January 14, 2013 at 11:30 AM
I didn't see these as "compliants" but more as comments and suggestions as to how to help the probelm. Something our officials ((Le said the committee decided to reverse its position “for lack of a better solution.”)) are not doing.
Edward P. Campbell January 14, 2013 at 02:13 PM
Thank You Ms. Buckle, The 6th and 14th amendments stitched together basically create a legal right in any State of this once great country to giving we the meager citizens the right to confront his or her accuser, even if the accuser is our very government. Some traffic tickets are now being issued by machines for example, red light cameras. Today you can open your mail and find traffic ticket that isn’t justly yours, but when you go to court and ask to confront your “accuser,” the government laughs at you and finds you guilty! They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Ben Franklin, February, 1775


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