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Unique policy on drug testing mulled by Boardman schools

Published: Sat, July 23, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Robert guttersohn



The township school board may vote Monday to allow parent-approved, random drug testing that would extend beyond extracurricular students.

The policy would be the first of its kind in the Valley.

“It seeks to help students, not punish students,” said Boardman Superintendent Frank Lazzeri.

If approved, parents would pay $22 to have their student tested at school randomly throughout the year by WorkMed. The results would be sent directly to the parent. Lazzeri said the school would not know the results, and no punishment would be handed out unless the parent decided to reveal the results. Then the school would take punitive action.

If a student is caught using drugs, first offense is a 10-day suspension. If the student seeks drug treatment, the suspension can be knocked down to five days, Lazzeri said.

Expulsion is recommended for multiple offenses or for those students thought to be selling drugs.

Student athletes are barred from 20 percent of the season’s games if they are caught using drugs. Repeat offenders would never be allowed to play sports again.

For an extra fee, parents could have athletes tested for steroid abuse. Currently, Boardman does not test its athletes for banned substances, Lazzeri said.

Although Lazerri said the new program will deter the use of drugs in the community, others call it an invasion of privacy.

“We are always concerned when students are being drug tested,” said Mike Brickner, spokesman from the American Civil Liberties Union Ohio. “We each have a right to privacy unless there is evidence we’ve committed a crime.”

In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court said the random testing of students involved in extracurricular activities is constitutional but not the drug testing of all students.

Lazzeri said he gave the policy to the school district’s attorneys and heard no warnings. Brickner would not say whether the ACLU would file suit against the district.

“We think kids would have some sort of say,” Brickner said. “Parents can’t just get all the unilateral information of their child’s medical history.”

For example, Ohio law allows minors to seek drug treatment without parental consent or notification.

Brickner suggested parents educate their children on the repercussions of drug use rather than just having them drug tested.

“The more communication you have with the child, it is better on many fronts — not just with drugs,” said Michael Senchak, executive director of Mahoning County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Service Board.

He added that drug testing also is an effective way to deter drug use in high schools and would support any district with a policy similar to Boardman’s.

“Anything that works in helping students stay off drugs, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with that,” Senchak said.

He said he was not aware of any district in Ohio with a similar drug-testing policy.

Lazzeri said a committee of parents and staff came up with the voluntary policy after months of deliberation.

Monday’s action would authorize the district to spend no more than $1,000 on policy promotional materials to be given to parents at the beginning of the year.

The meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. at Boardman Center Middle School.

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