DRUG TESTING POLICY STARTS AT HIGH SCHOOLS
CLINTON TWP -- Nearly seven years after Hunterdon Central High School
started a random drug testing policy, the North Hunterdon-Voorhees
Regional High School District will begin its own this fall, testing
students in athletics, extra-curricular activities, and students with
Implementation of random drug testing in the North-Voorhees district
comes a little over a year after a state Supreme Court ruling in Joye
vs. Hunterdon Central High School that upheld the school's random drug
In the spring, the North-Voorhees school board approved a final policy
for the district.
"I'm pleased we're going ahead with it," said board member Barbara
Walter last Friday. "I think it will be helpful to the community and
give the kids a good reason to say 'no' to peer pressure when
Funded by a grant from The Walsh Group, a nationwide counseling firm
for substance abuse, the district's policy will be assessed at the end
of two years. Students can be tested for a number of drugs including
marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and Ecstasy.
Students whose parents fill out permission forms will also be eligible
for random drug testing.
At the end the two years, the district will have to decide "whether
there is a real, overwhelming need for random drug testing of our
kids," said Superintendent Charles Shaddow.
"The question is whether this is a proper activity for public schools,
or whether it's an area where parents, law enforcement and school
officials should work together to educate students to remedy the
problem," said Shaddow. "I think this is a debate that is going on
around the region."
In the Joye case, the state Supreme Court gave school districts clear
guidelines on how to set up drug testing programs, said David Evans,
who helped put together a task force that looked at drug testing in
the North-Voorhees district. Evans, who has a son at North Hunterdon
High School, helped establish a drug testing policy at Hunterdon Central.
"You want to deter kids, not catch them," said Evans referring to
random drug testing programs.
Evans said Hunterdon Central had conducted studies, which showed the
drug testing policy had been a deterrent to drug usage.
d a safer school environment, a safer learning
environment," said Evans.
The North-Voorhees school board is currently waiting to receive
required forms from two research firms before it selects one to
analyze the drug tests, said Shaddow. He said there have been no
problems from parents returning the permission forms.
In putting together the policy, the district worked with The Walsh
Group, looked at drug testing policies at other high schools, and
sought input from police, teachers, and administrators.
Walter said she hoped the drug testing would provide good data "to
truly test the effectiveness of the random drug testing program in our
high school population."
Drug Testing At Central
In the late 1990's, Hunterdon Central started a drug testing policy
after a survey showed that nearly a third of the school's students in
the upper grades were using illegal drugs. The policy initially only
tested athletes, but later expanded to include students with parking
permits and those involved in extracurricular activities. The school
already had other measures in place including locker searches and a
Four years ago, the expanding drug testing policy resulted in a
lawsuit against the high school by the American Civil Liberties Union
and three parents. A major concern of parents had been that the
school's policy infringed on the privacy rights of students. In the
Joye case, Justice Peter Verniero argued that students have a
"diminished expectation of privacy in a public school."
Shaddow said one of the reasons the North-Voorhees school board
decided to go ahead with random drug testing was a concern over drug
overdoses by both current and former students. "Board members felt
that one overdose was one too many," he said. "If this can be
prevented, then possibly random drug testing may be the way to go."
"I don't think any school is immune from what's going on in society,"
"I think the people in the community and the board love the children
and want to do everything they can to keep them safe," said Shaddow.
Although there have been concerns about drug overdoses, Shaddow said
there is no indication that there has been an increase in drug and
alcohol usage by students in the district.
Shaddow said the district currently has a substance abuse education
program along with a disciplinary policy for alcohol and drug usage.
The policy lays out penalties for the selling and distribution drugs.
In addition, the district has a reasonable suspicion policy under
which a student is reported to the office if a teacher suspects that
the student is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The parent is
then contacted and a drug test is conducted outside the school within
24 hours, said Shaddow.
The superintendent said that the number of students that have had to
take a "reasonable suspicion" drug test has been "minimal."
Shaddow said the number of emails he has received from parents has
been roughly evenly split between those favoring and those opposing
random drug testing.
"Some say this is what parents should be doing and not the schools.
Others say 'I want to know if my child is taking drugs," he said.
If a student tests positive under the random drug testing policy,
consequences could include notification a parent, a mandatory medical
examination, or possible removal from school. Students could also be
barred from participating in a sport or extracurricular activity, or
have their parking permit revoked for two months.
The decision in May by the North Hunterdon-Voorhees school board to
approve the final random drug testing policy wasn't unanimous. Two
board members, Katherine Schwab and Debra Roosen, said it was unfair
to target only a segment of the student body for testing, and that it
would be difficult for the identity of students chosen for testing to
Roosen did not return phone calls.