Monday, August 06, 2007

Bullitt to test student athletes for drugs Program is part of national study

Starting this school year, at least half of the student athletes at Bullitt Central and Bullitt East high schools will be called from their classrooms, escorted to a trailer and asked to give a urine sample.

It's part of the district's controversial plan to start using random drug testing for athletes, with plans to expand testing next year to students in all its middle and high schools who are involved inany competitive extra-curricular event.

The district will be one of 36 school systems across the nation participating in a study by the National Center for Education Evaluation to see if testing curtails drug use among high school students. In exchange, Bullitt County will receive $140,000 a year for five years.

"This program is going to prove that the students here aren't using drugs," Jaime Goldsmith, who serves as the district's safe and drug free schools coordinator, recently told a group of athletes and their parents at Bullitt East High School.

But many parents and advocacy groups say that the testing is unfair, ineffective and violates student privacy.

"I don't like it," said Theresa Rodriguez, whose 15-year-old son will play on Bullitt Central's football team and who thinks the program is wrong to focus only on athletes. "They're hurting these children, not helping them."

Bullitt joins 65 other school districts across the state that participate in some form of random student drug testing, according to Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association...

This from the Courier-Journal. And this C-J Editorial:

Testing the jocks

It's been our view that the U.S. Supreme Court got it right in 1985, when it said students should be able to attend public high schools without fear of a random search of their persons or belongings.

Since that time, the Court has been limiting the rights of students, including with approval of random drug testing for those involved in extracurricular activities. The theory is that a school's interest in dealing effectively with drug problems outweighs a student's expectation of privacy.

Such testing has spread widely, including, this next school year, to at least half the student athletes at Bullitt Central and Bullitt East high schools, and later to all middle and high school students who participate in competitive extra-curricular activities.

Oldham County was a pioneer, having begun random drug testing among student athletes eight years ago. Neither Jefferson County's nor Southern Indiana's schools have adopted the practice.

Although drug use among teens has declined across the country in recent years, the problem remains serious, and the consequences remain dire. Abuse of prescriptions and other legal substances remains high, according to a government survey released a few months ago.

In that poll, taken among 48,460 8th- 10th- and 12th-graders nationwide, about 15 percent reported having used illegal drugs in the past month. That's down from 19.4 percent in 2001, but it still represents enormous personal and civic jeopardy.

If that justifies random drug testing in schools, it should be conducted in non-punitive programs that guide users toward counseling, treatment and ongoing support, all made available to those whose parents can't afford to pay.

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