Schools to stay with current drug policy |

Schools to stay with current drug policy

Role of school, finances cited as reasons not to test for substances

Pat Callahan

Local officials are saying Moffat County School District policy will not change because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that drug testing students involved in extra-curricular activities is constitutional.

“It won’t change anything,” said Moffat County School District Superintendent Pete Bergmann.

“Unless we changed policy, which I don’t anticipate doing, it will have no affect because we don’t currently do any drug testing.”

Supreme Court justices ruled 5-4 last month that a school’s interest in removing drugs from their campuses negates a student’s right to privacy.

The ruling gives schools free reign to drug test any student who participates in or on competitive after-school activities or teams.

Drug testing had previously been limited to student athletes.

“We realize it’s important, and we do support a drug-free environment,” Bergmann said. “But I think it’s pushing the role of the school district. Schools have assumed so many societal roles already. Schools are meant to play an educational role, not a policing role.”

“I don’t see it happening specifically for financial reasons,” said Mark Field, the president of the Parent Advisory Committee. “Where are they going to get the money? I think we probably know there are problems at the high school because of its size. I believe it should be left up to the administration and coaches, through their guidelines. But ultimately, it’s the parents’ responsibility, and some have relinquished some of that responsibility.”

Field estimated that it would cost between $350 to $500 to test a single student for drugs.

Bergmann said several factors must be considered when it comes to drug testing in Moffat County.

“Part of it is cost, and part of it is the philosophical belief that it is an invasion of privacy,” Bergmann said. “I don’t think it would be worth the time or expense, or the philosophical intrusion. I don’t think we would get significant results from the testing. I think it is a small part of the student population, and I don’t believe it would produce a significant change.”

But Moffat County High School Athletic Director Jim Loughran said he believed drug testing would produce changes within the school district.

“It would hold athletes more accountable to school policy,” Loughran said. “If we had a suspicion and random testing, kids wouldn’t feel like they could get away with it.

Loughran said drug testing also might create a “healthy fear” in students that they would be held accountable to the policy.

Loughran said the current substance abuse policy, which all student athletes are required to sign, outlines that if a student is caught violating the policy, that individual will be suspended for two athletic contests or for two weeks, which ever comes first.

Loughran estimated that half of all Moffat County High School students currently participate in athletics or extracurricular activities.

“A certain percentage of kids are not going to be honest with the policy,” Loughran said. “With drug testing, if the chance is taken, the kids would know there is a consequences.

“It would also allow us the opportunity to get a kid help if there is a chemical problem.”

The Supreme Court ruled against former Oklahoma high school student Lindsay Earls, who competed on an academic quiz team and sang in the school choir.

Earls tested negative for any drugs, but sued over what she described as a demeaning and accusatory policy.

In writing for himself and four other Supreme Court Justices, Justice Clarence Thomas stated: “We find that testing students who participate in extracurricular activities is a reasonably effective means of addressing the school district’s legitimate concerns in preventing, deterring and detecting drug use.”

The high school, which is located in Tecumseh, Okla., had initially considered testing all students, but decided to test only those involved in competitive extracurricular activities based on the premise that by voluntarily representing the school, those students had a lower notion

of privacy.

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