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Drug Testing News

Halifax considers drug tests
Students in extra-curricular activities, driver education to be targeted

Monday, March 31, 2003

Halifax School Board members have given preliminary approval to a policy that would mandate student drivers and seventh- to 12th-graders involved in competitive extra-curricular activities to submit to random drug testing.

A public hearing regarding the proposed policy is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 7 in the high school library. The school board plans a final vote on the proposal April 14.

Halifax officials decided last year to reconsider instituting drug testing after a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed schools to require drug tests of students who participate in any competitive after-school activities, whether it be football, marching band or Future Farmers of America.

Previously, schools were allowed only to test student athletes and cheerleaders.

The proposal states that testing will be done randomly without prior notice to students.

The district would test up to 20 students at monthly intervals during the school year, regardless of whether a pupil's sport or activity is in session. Halifax's school board gave preliminary approval to the proposal March 17.

An earlier proposal requiring random drug tests of athletes in grades seven through 12 was voted down in 1999 by all but one Halifax board member for varying reasons, including some board members' concerns that it was unfair to single out athletes.

The newest proposal was passed unanimously by board members, three of whom were on the board in 1999. Members William Sayre and Diane Vaughn were absent for the vote.

A task force of district personnel, parents and other community members helped draft the proposal.

Superintendent James Dull said the officials decided to draft a drug-test policy after reviewing results of a survey administered in 2001 to Halifax students in grades seven through 12.

"The survey indicated that there's a higher level of long-term drug use, not just experimental use. There is a problem," Dull said.

The district is targeting activities students instead of the entire student body because a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision covers pupils involved in competitive activities, not students in general.

"Students who are involved in competitive activities are more susceptible to being put in dangerous situations. Drugs can impair their performance and then it becomes a safety issue," Dull said.

Also, school activities and driving are a privilege, not a right for the district's students, Dull said.

Alcohol testing would be performed only under reasonable suspicion that a student has or is under the influence of alcohol, the proposal states. Nicotine products are also included in a list of drugs prohibited by the school district.

For a first offense, students would be suspended indefinitely from the extracurricular activity. Also, a student would be required to undergo drug and alcohol counseling.

If there is a second offense, a student would be barred from participating in extra-curricular activities and lose his or her driving privileges for one calendar year.