Valpo schools drug testing plan draws questions

2013-04-02T21:00:00Z Valpo schools drug testing plan draws questionsSusan Emery Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 02, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Most of the people who spoke Tuesday night at the Valparaiso Community School Board's discussion meeting expressed support for proposed random drug tests that could begin this fall at Valparaiso High School if approved by the board.

But some, including Valparaiso University Professor Larry Baas, had concerns about the plan.

Baas, chair of VU's political science department and director of the department’s community research and service center, said some studies have shown drug testing is not an effective deterrent to future drug use.

“At best, the results are mixed,” Baas said.

The proposal calls for random drug testing for high school students involved in extracurricular activities or who have school parking permits.

Students who fail the drug test must complete an eight-week drug and alcohol after-school program and will receive a 45-day suspension of their parking permit.

Between 1,200 and 1,500 students would be in the drug testing pool, with about 25 students tested each month.

City Attorney Dave Hollenbeck said current law will only allow the schools to perform random drug tests on students who are involved in voluntary activities or who have driving privileges.

The law will not allow testing on all students who are at school because they are required by law to be there and they are not voluntarily at school, Hollenbeck said.

Superintendent Mike Berta said the program is not intended to be punitive and is “rich in intervention.” Instead of breaking relationships between students and school personnel, he said the program will help build relationships.

Berta has said the program is a proactive way to respond to student drug use discovered through the voluntary Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Survey. Results of that survey show Valparaiso High School senior students use alcohol and marijuana and binge drink at higher rates than the state and national average.

Assistant Superintendent Jim Doane said the program is expected to cost between $15,000 and $20,000 a year, which includes the cost of the drug tests and the personnel to run the program.

The board is expected to take up the matter again, with a possible vote, at its next meeting at 6 p.m. April 16 at Parkview Elementary School.

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