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February 25, 2006 - Daily Press (VA)

Parents Criticize School Systems's Drug Testing Plan

By Associated Press

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

WILLIAMSBURG, VA. -- Some parents are criticizing a school system's proposal to randomly test many high school students for drugs and alcohol use, saying it would violate privacy rights.

Gary Mathews, superintendent of Williamsburg-James City County schools, has asked that all students who participate in extracurricular activities or who use a permit to park their cars on school property be tested.

The School Board is scheduled to vote March 7 on the proposal, which could affect roughly 2,000 students at the county's two high schools. It would affect members of science and debate clubs as well as athletes.

"I don't think the schools have any business demanding urine specimens of students who are not suspected of drug usage," Kathy Hornsby, who has two sons in the eighth grade at Berkeley Middle School, said during a Feb. 21 School Board hearing in Williamsburg.

Most speakers who attended the hearing were against the drug testing. But several school officials told the board that students are threatened with widespread drug and alcohol use.

"Kids stay home because they don't want to face it," said Tom Dolan, athletic director for Jamestown High School. "We have students who basically shut themselves in their homes on weekends to avoid this. That's how prevalent it is."

Jamestown High School Principal Chuck Wagner said 17 students at his school have been cited for possession or use of drugs or alcohol this school year.

"The problem is much larger than we at the schools know or that parents are willing to acknowledge," Wagner said. "Whether or not that's true, I don't know, but that's what we're being told: that students can't get away from it."

Dan Barner, athletic director for Lafayette High School, said he has seen the attitudes of many students toward drug use change over the last several years.

But others weren't convinced that random drug and alcohol testing is the answer.

"Drug testing is a shotgun approach to address the minority of students who are taking drugs," parent Curt Gaul said.

Carolee Bush, a former School Board member who also spent more than three decades as a high school teacher, asked the board: "When we break the Fourth Amendment, which protects against search and seizure without probable cause, how can we expect our students to understand the Bill of Rights?"

Student Zoe Welch said other students are worried that taking allergy medications or eating poppy-seed bagels could give students a false positive on a drug test. "I believe drug testing is humiliating, costly and ineffective," she said.

But student Christine Bottles, who spent the past year on a committee studying the drug policy, said she agreed with the testing plan.

"This will be done as a deterrent, not as a punishment," she said. "It will give (students) a reason to say no."

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