McKinney school district's drug testing stirs parents' concerns

By Rightnow289 · May 25, 2009 · Updated May 27, 2009 ·
  1. Rightnow289
    School drug tests its students

    McKinney school district will graduate 1,208 seniors this year from its four high schools.
    Only 14 will walk the stage from Serenity High School.
    Why does the district bother with such a tiny campus?
    Serenity High saves lives, according to its passionate principal, Juli Ferraro.

    The It's the only public school in the region strictly for students who have been addicted to drugs or alcohol. At Serenity, students undergo drug tests semimonthly and receive positive peer pressure to stay clean.
    The students come not only from McKinney but from 14 other area school districts, including Garland, Richardson and Rockwall.
    Ferraro has headed the school since it was founded a decade ago. And she strongly supports the McKinney school board's recent decision to conduct random drug testing for students in extracurricular activities.
    The new policy starts in the fall and applies to students in grades 7 through 12 who participate in athletics, band, choir and other after-school activities.
    "If you detect drug use early and get help, it's a big plus," Ferraro said.
    Not all McKinney parents share her enthusiasm about the random drug testing. After a recent story about the board's vote, our McKinney blog lit up with impassioned comments, pro and con.
    Opponents charged that the tests violated students' privacy and smacked of Big Brother oversight. They wondered who would conduct the tests and who would see the results.
    I called a few parents and heard the same concerns.
    "I think there are a lot of unanswered questions," said Peter Litwin, who has a seventh-grade son.
    He and some other parents complain the school board passed the policy with little public input. No parents attended the meeting Monday to speak for or against drug testing.
    "It's infuriating," Litwin said. "This is definitely something that needs the buy-in of parents."
    On Friday morning, the district had no information about the drug policy on its Web site.
    "There are some details to be determined," district spokesman Cody Cunningham told me.
    About 1 p.m., he posted a lengthy news release that addressed many questions raised by parents.
    It said drug testing would be done by a certified lab and the $15 to $20 cost would be included in extracurricular fees. Students who test positive will be suspended from all activities for 30 days and referred to the Collin County Substance Abuse Program for assessment. [/IMGR]
    A second positive test will result in a 90-day suspension from extracurricular activities, a third a one-year suspension and a fourth a permanent ban.
    "The primary purpose of this program is to serve as a deterrent," Cunningham said.
    McKinney isn't the only area school district to implement random drug testing for extracurricular activities. Anna, Frisco, Lewisville, Melissa and Prosper also have done so, Cunningham said.
    Nationwide, many districts have wrestled with the issue of drug testing. Strident opposition frequently emerges. In Northern California, the ACLU filed a lawsuit to block drug testing, calling it an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.
    Some McKinney parents I interviewed expressed ambivalence about random drug testing. As a parent, I understand.
    Surely, my child doesn't use drugs, right? Drug testing seems ominous and unnecessary.
    But drug addiction, with its power to destroy lives, is much worse.

    [SIZE=-1]By ED HOUSEWRIGHT / The Dallas Morning News[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=-1]Source -

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