Pubdate: Wed, 08 Feb 2006
Source: Gazette, The (Colorado Springs, CO)
Copyright: 2006 The Gazette
Author: Nancy Bolash


I am a prosecutor in York County, but I live in James City and have
two children who are graduates of the school system.

There is no question that drug and alcohol use are an issue in our
community. I see the effects of abuse every day in our court system.
But I take issue with leaping from recognizing there is a problem to
assuming that random drug testing of high school students is the best,
or even the most advisable, solution.

The Supreme Court has ruled that these programs are constitutionally
permissible, but it has not addressed their viability. That is not
their function. It is that of the school system. When both the Gazette
and the school system freely admit that there is no empirical data to
support the effectiveness of random student drug testing, but that
doing something rather than nothing is advisable, I have a problem.

At a minimum, if the proposed program is to proceed, there should be a
sunset provision with a review of the data to judge effectiveness. At
a minimum, we should be exploring what programs have been utilized by
other school systems with documented effectiveness. Beyond the
bottom-line issue, I have the following concerns about the program
being proposed.

1. If part of the first-time positive drug tester's treatment is a
five-part education-treatment program, wouldn't all students,
particularly middle school students, benefit from exposure? Prevention
means stopping the behavior before it starts.

2. How does confidentiality not become a phantom concept if students
begin disappearing for two weeks at a time from activities?

3. The program has no exception for students who are given alcohol by
their parents under their supervision and control. Virginia Code
4.1-305 allows parents to give alcohol to their children "by order of
parent," as do parents in other countries within their own homes and
under their authority, i.e., the taste-of-wine-with-dinner concept.

4. Withdrawing positive samples on school property is indicative that
students are in possession of alcohol or drugs (on school property), a
violation of Virginia state law. Are James City County officers or
prosecutors comfortable with/able to overlook actual violations of
criminal law?

I suggest utilizing programs with proven effectiveness. I would
explore securing grant funding for a drug dog devoted exclusively to
use in the school system (overseeing parking lots, lockers,
classrooms, school buses).

Yes, it wouldn't catch every user, but neither will a random 10%
testing policy. Its advantage is that it is established practice,
accepted by the students, and is directed against everyone, not just
kids who would be deterred by testing from participating in positive
school activities .

Once drug users are detected, utilize the existing framework for
supervision and treatment within the court system. First-offender
possessors of alcohol and drugs face treatment, supervision, an
analysis of what other services are needed, continued drug testing,
and have the opportunity, after dealing with the wake-up of a judge
and the court system, to have the contact wiped off their record. The
second contact carries real consequences with a proven track record.

I ask that our school system and parents consider all options to
select the one most effective in guiding students to legal, healthy

Nancy Bolash

James City
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