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School drug test policy not 'effective'

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Random drug testing in county schools may be on its way out if an effective replacement can be found, according to comments made at the Del Norte County Unified School District board meeting Thursday night.

Boardmembers were hesitant to make a decision to do away with the program last night. Instead, the board directed Superintendent Frank Lynch to study alternate programs and bring them back to the next meeting.

None of the boardmembers argued in favor of the current program but they indicated their hesitancy in discontinuing it unless an alternate program was in the wings to replace it.

"The problem is no one can conclusively say the current program has failed or succeeded," said Boardmember Bill Parker. "But unless we can find a more effective deterrent to replace it, we'd be making a big mistake by removing it."

Student Boardmember Justin Kravitz and Boardmember Phil Freneau agreed with administrators that the random tests were simply not working.

"I don't think the program is effective. You may not want to believe this but there are so many ways around it," said Kravitz as he explained how some student athletes circumvent the tests by scheduling their drug use around their sport schedules.

"I don't think the program is working. I think we need some program but we need to figure what we're going to do," said Freneau.

"I am extremely conflicted on this issue – probably more than I've been conflicted on any issue," said Vice Chairman Bob Berkowitz. "If we do get rid of this program it will send certain messages to the students. So if we do, we need to get our real message out another way."

Del Norte High School administrators told the board they believe the wrong messages are already being sent because the random tests are only applied to students involved in extra-curricular activities.

"I would like to see some education – not just for the athletes but for the entire student body in promoting healthy lifestyles," said Del Norte High School Vice Principal Don Olson. "This money could be spent better and on more students."

Del Norte High School Principal Jan Moorehouse agreed, adding that students who are not included in the tests may feel the schools care less about them.

"My question is, what do we do with the kids who fail the tests now?" asked Freneau. Moorehouse mentioned one particular student as an example, saying "I don't know what happened because she's no longer in sports and not being tested anymore."

The next scheduled board meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on May 23.

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