News-Press from Fort Myers, Florida on November 22, 1998 · Page 138
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News-Press from Fort Myers, Florida · Page 138

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Fort Myers, Florida
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Sunday, November 22, 1998
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Page 138
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Drag-test tbe eiess c More and more schools require students to pass a drug test to participate in extracurricular activities even the honor society. While most teens simply adjust, a few outraged families just say no. BY STEVE RHODES EDUCATION MILLENNIUM A continuing look at topics for 2000 ELAWARE VALLEY HIGH School in Pike County, Pa., 70 miles northwest of New York City, is deploying a new weapon in its war against drug use by students: drug-testing them for extracurricular activities. Starting this year, every student who wants to join in activities from yearbook and chess club to sports and drama must take a school-administered drug test. The practice, an expansion of the more common testing of student athletes, is gaining acceptance in a small but growing number of districts around the nation: Rushville, Ind. Rush County High School began testing all students involved in extracurricular activities in 1996. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge in October. San Bernardino, Calif. This is perhaps the largest school district (10,000 students; four high schools) with a mandatory drug-testing program. Only two students have tested positive in two years. Plummer, Idaho. The Plummer-Worley district began mandatory testing this year of athletes, cheerleaders and student body officers. Dade County, Fla. Miami-Dade Public Schools this year launched a voluntary drug-testing program for all high school students, requiring consent from both parents and students. In Pennsylvania's Pike County, schools launched the new anti-drug effort for middle and high school students after a teenager was arrested last year for selling heroin on school grounds. "The community was appalled," says Super intendent Candis Finan. In addition, 3 percent of the district's sixth-graders said in a survey that they had smoked marijuana at least once in the past 30 days, a rate slightly higher than the national average. Of the 1,000 students tested so far, one has come up positive. Students still are adjusting to the new requirement. On a recent afternoon at Delaware Valley High School, while students on the yearbook staff were scrambling to meet deadlines, two girls dropped by to offer help. One small problem: "You haven't been drug-tested yet," teacher Jacque-lyn Weston reminded one of the girls. The upshot: She couldn't participate. Despite broad acceptance among students and parents, there are pockets of resistance. "To test everybody just because they volunteer for something shows a basic lack of trust in students and families," says Sarah Casey, a 17-year-old senior who passed a drug test to participate in the environment club and the National Honor Society. Adds her mother, Sue Casey, one of two school board members who opposed testing: "If a kid smokes a joint on a Friday night and shows up Monday and fails a drug test, but performance in school is never affected, is that the school's responsibility?" At least one family is preparing to sue the school system, saying drug testing amounts to unreasonable search and seizure, according to its attorneys. "It's an invasion of privacy," says 17-year-old Jen Stangl, a senior who took the test to get a parking permit. "It was disgusting. I felt violated. They just presumed everyone was guilty." C3 Chicago-based reporter Steve Rhodes last wrote for USA WEEKEND about schools' new gym programs. WHAT DO YOU THINK? Drug-testing students for after-school activities, even yearbook and chess club, is ... AN EXCELLENT IDEA: 1-900-370-1222 UNREASONABLE: 1-900-370-1555 A call costs 50 cents. One call per household; the first 100,000 calls will be accepted. Callers under 18 must have parent's or guardian's permission. Lines are open from 6 a.m. ET Nov. 20 through midnight ET Nov. 26. or until the call limit is reached. Callers' names will not be used for mailing-list purposes. If you cant call, vote on a postcard; mall by Nov. 23 to 'National Forum: Teen Drug Testing, USA WEEKEND, 1000 Wilson Blvd.. Arlington, Va. 22229. Or you may vote at www.uiiwwkand.com. Look for results Jan. 8-10. ) V l MM Ml! XT: Is lying ever OK? Readers are split. Our Oct 16-18 National Forum on Is it ever OK to lie? "America's escalating honesty crisis" YES: diiu me rise in tying among teens drew 5,466 responses. We asked USA WEEKEND readers: I c 49 NO: W j I 51 . 14 USA WEEKEND Nov. 20-22, 1 F

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