High school principal floats idea of student drug-testing

December 13, 2006

Tonganoxie High School Principal Tatia Shelton is exploring the idea of testing students for drugs and alcohol.

At Monday night's school board meeting, Shelton said a drug-testing program wouldn't be for the purpose of disciplining students.

"Reports or results are not sent to the police, they are not turned over to anybody else, they do not become a part of the students' records," Shelton said.

Shelton said if the district were willing, she would like to start by using breathalyzers -- which test the breath for alcohol. She said she's merely in the information-gathering stage -- obtaining policies from other school districts that allow random drug- and alcohol-testing.

In one program, Shelton said, students and their parents sign a consent form saying the student can be subjected to random drug tests.

In return, the student is allowed to park a car on high school property and to attend extracurricular activities.

School board member Leana Leslie said she had friends in Holden, Mo., one of the school districts whose policy Shelton obtained.

"I think definitely it's something that we need to be looking into," Leslie said. "To what degree, I don't know."

Leslie said she agreed with Shelton in that a random testing program is meant to be a deterrent, not a punishment.

"The policies are not meant to be punitive or for discipline," Shelton said during an interview Monday. "They're supposed to be more for prevention of problems. Just keep it away from here, keep it away -- we don't want it."

The district has no drug-testing policy now, Shelton said.

"Which again puts us in a very precarious situation if we suspect somebody could be under the influence," Shelton said. "We can suspend them for our suspicions and we leave it up to the parents if they want to fight that, they can go to a lab and have a drug test taken and they can submit the results to us."

Shelton said she's discussed this with members of the high school site committee, some of whom say random drug-testing is needed now, and some who are reluctant to recommend it.

"In light of several things that have come up this year, maybe there is a need -- maybe there isn't," Shelton said. "I just know we're trying to do whatever we can do to make sure that the environment here at the school is the safest for everybody involved."

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