SCHOOL BOARD STICKS TO DRUG TESTING POLICY

December 12, 2000 11:00 pm

The initial results of randomingly drug testing Brookings-Harbor High School athletes bolstered the 17-C school boards stand on Monday to maintain its policy, despite one parents threat of legal action.

Based on what weve heard, and unless we hear otherwise from our legal counsel, we should continue with the policy, said school board member Tom Davis.

The other four school members agreed. Since the policy is already in place, no official action was necessary.

The school board decided in October to review its 2-year-old policy of drug testing student-athletes after several people questioned its validity and whether it violates the students constitutional rights.

To aid the board in its deliberations, Curriculum Director Tim Adsit evaluated the districts drug testing program and presented the inital results on Monday.

Adsit also shared the initial results of a separate study of similar programs in other schools throughout the state. The results in both cases appeared to show the policy was working (see related story page 15A).

The school district implemented its drug testing policy after teachers and students told the board there was a drug problem in the schools.

The board investigated various ways to stem the potential drug problem and ultimately passed the policy.

Since then, the board has heard comments from parents and citizens. Some support the school boards policy. Others have denounced it.

One of the biggest opponents of the policy is parent Dannette Gwin, who said her daughter Britt has been suspended from the varsity spirit squad after refusing to take a random drug test in late September.

Britt had earlier attached a letter of protest about the drug-testing policy to her application forms for participation, Gwin said.

According to Brookings-Harbor High School Athletic Director Pete Payne, 600 student-athletes have been randomly drug tests during the last two years. Eleven of those students tested positive.

As of mid-November, 113 athletes were tested this year, Payne said. Two students tested positive, he said. One of those was Britt Gwin.

At Mondays board meeting, Gwin questioned Paynes numbers, saying one of the two students who tested positive was her daughter, who refused to take the test.

Britt did not test positive but, in fact, was not tested at all as she refused to be sjubject to a suspicionless search of her person, Gwin said.

I consider it an insult to her and to the intelligence of this board to include her, or anyone else refusing to be tested, as a positive test, she said. I cant help but wonder if the othe positive test was in fact a student that was actually tested.

Gwin then asked the school board to suspend the policy, saying it is illegal, unconstitutional and violated basic civil rights guaranteed to all citizens, even students.

Gwin said she had spoken with attorneys working for the American Civil Liberties Union, who told her the testing is in direct violation of Federal and Oregon law.

I am confident that Oregon courts will not uphold this policy or any policy that requires a student to be subjected to drug testing without a reasonable suspicion of that particular individual student as already provided for in Oregon law, Gwin said.

Therefore, I am requesting that the school board act tonight to immediately suspend the requirement that students in this school district be randomly drug tested, she said.

I would like the district to know that unless the board takes immediate action, I am prepared to test this in court.

Her comments spurred Davis to ask Superintendent Paul Prevenas if the policy has been reviewed by a lawyer.

Prevenas said yes. Our own legal counsel has reviewed it and said were okay.

Former teacher and staunch school supporter Larry Anderson followed Gwins comments with anecdotes of his experience with students and a foster child whose lives were ruined by drug use.

However, he, too, wondered about the legality of the policy. He also wanted to know whether it was working, and if so, if it could be done in a more private manner for the students.

I know of no positive outcome of drug use, Anderson said. Those who try have zero tolerance should be commended.

He said the districts policy has merit, but perhaps it needed tweaking.

If it saves one life, its worth it, he said. I say stay the course, but improve it. But if its not legal, then it shouldnt be done.

Brian Larrson, chairman of the school board, said, Its important that we listen to the public in regards to this sensitive issue.

However, he said, The data confirms that the program works. And it seems like the community overall support it.

We will continue to gather information and listen to the public, but my suggestions is that we continue the policy as is for now.

Boardmember Mary Van Hoesen said, I have heard from many parents and students who say keep the program going.

Boardmember Jeanne Sever said she had spent many years as a psychiatrist in middle schools and junior high schools.

I know this is the one deterrent that works, Sever said. Its hard to tell parents their kids are on drugs, but when you have a test to back it up, then they usually do something about it.

At the boards request, Prevenas said he would ask the districts legal counsel to review not only the random drug testing policy again, but the school s entire code of conduct policy to determine its legality.