Proposed drug tests for students draw criticism
Apr 16, 2009 04:30 AM
FLIN FLON, Man.–A Manitoba school board contemplating drug and alcohol testing for students in all grades is coming under fire for what critics say would be an infringement on privacy rights.
The controversial idea comes from a Flin Flon principal who wants to find a way to deter students from coming to classes drunk or stoned. School trustees thought it was worth looking at saliva and breathalyzer tests for board employees and students who appear to be under the influence, said superintendent Blaine Veitch.
The testing, which the board believes would be the first of its kind in Canada, could act as a deterrent or help principals confirm suspicions if students reeked of alcohol or displayed "erratic behaviour," Veitch said. "The board felt there was some value in that and that would help the schools provide a drug-free environment," he said.
But the board wasn't prepared for the scrutiny and legal implications, Veitch said. The idea is now being researched by a committee that is expected to make a recommendation within the next few months.
Veitch said he hasn't heard a peep from parents, but the proposal has attracted the attention of Manitoba's ombudsman and drawn the ire of some accusing the board of "looking for trouble."
Valerie Price, executive director of Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties, said school drug testing would be unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge. The Supreme Court has allowed principals to bring in sniffer dogs and search lockers, but drug testing is different, she said. "This is a person and they're asking for a body sample. It's pretty invasive. ..."
The proposal has unleashed a flurry of reaction from people outside the community. Some say the board is overstepping its bounds, both legally and ethically, by trying to curb natural teenage experimentation.
The Canadian Press