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Whitnall won't drug test

Concerns about accuracy, stigma doom proposal

Oct. 2, 2008

Concerned about the effectiveness, accuracy and stigma of proposed random drug-testing, the Whitnall School Board has voted down such a program for Whitnall High School.

The 4-2 tally Sept. 29 reversed an effort by district officials to implement a program that would have made any WHS student participating in extracurricular activities eligible for testing.

Board President Richard Kollauf and Clerk Nancy Zaborowski supported the proposal, but Vice President Bill Osterndorf joined board members Suzette Larson, Bernard Shaw and Julie Scheibe in opposition, at least for now.

The cost of administering drug testing by a private firm — $4,200 a year — was not a major stumbling block.

At issue: Accuracy and impact

Other issues did concern board members, though.

When the panel took up the proposal in July, it appeared the program might sail to approval, but doubts about random drug-testing surfaced at a Committee of the Whole meeting earlier in September.

Scheibe said the stigma of an inaccurate test result, creating a “false positive,” could unfairly brand an innocent student.

“It can be a very stigmatizing event,” Osterndorf agreed, noting other measures should be used before the board approves random drug-testing.

Shaw said major studies about drug-testing programs at high schools in the U.S. indicate a lack of effectiveness.

No less concerned

Shaw said the board’s vote does not mean Whitnall school district officials do not take anti-alcohol and drug programming seriously. Last spring, Breathalyzers were used at prom and drug-sniffing canines made a sweep of WHS. Similar measures will be used this fall at homecoming activities.

Zaborowski said the majority of parents and students she talked to recently support random drug-testing.

“They look at it as a deterrent, just as they look at the Breathalyzers that we’re using for homecoming and prom,” Zaborowski. “We did hear from some of the schools that it did make a tremendous difference in the atmosphere.”

Larson disagreed, saying installing a drug-testing program now might have a negative effect.

“It’s something we could implement. However, I don’t think it should be a first step,” Larson said.

Legal questions linger

Larson said she was concerned such a program could face a court challenge.

Kollauf, however, said the constitutionality of the program has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It could have a meaningful impact to the lives of several children, who might be deterred from taking drugs,” said Kollauf.

John Neville can be reached at (262) 446-6609.

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