HOPEWELL: District approves random drug tests in schools

Source: Central Jersey News

Hopewell Valley Central High School students will be subject to random drug tests under a policy and companion regulation that were approved by the Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education. The board voted unanimously to adopt the random drug testing policy, which had been under discussion for several months, following a public hearing.

The superintendent said that 93 to 94 percent of students at the high school take part in sports or other extra- or co-curricular activities, which is the requirement for being subject to random drug testing. Students who hold an on-campus parking permit also are enrolled in the program.

Smith said that 23 of the 24 students who were caught with illegal drugs last year were involved in sports or other activities, adding that “it’s not the students who you think [are using drugs]. It’s the students who are taking AP courses [who also take drugs].”

School board vice president Lisa Wolff said she believes the “primary reason” for implementing the random drug testing policy is for its deterrent effect. If students know they may be chosen at random to be tested for illegal drugs, they will be less likely to ingest them, she said.

Wolff said the school district experienced a similar situation with alcoholic beverages. Students would go to school-sponsored parties while they were intoxicated. Once school district officials began to screen students before they entered the social function, “it stopped,” she said.

“We are not trying to catch students,” Wolff said. The goal is deterrence. When there is peer pressure, it is easier to say no because of the random drug tests, she said.

One resident voiced her objections, however. “I don’t understand the problem,” Theresa Vogler said, and suggested testing students for whom there is “probable cause” to believe they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Only students who are involved in sports or after-school clubs are included in this “intrusion,” she added. “Wouldn’t it be fair” to include all students, and not just those who play sports or join after-school clubs and activities?

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Smith replied that it was not an easy decision to make. A majority of students who were polled last year indicated that they believe illegal drugs are a problem in the school district, he said.

“I would argue, we do have a problem. I gain no pleasure [implementing the policy]. We do this because we are for the students. Not every parent has a great relationship with their child. Like it or not, we become ‘de facto’ parents,” Smith said.

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HOPEWELL: District approves random drug tests in schools -- Part 2