By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
The fate of an expensive, random drug testing program at Del Norte High School is in the hands of the school board.
Administrators at the high school say the money spent on the testing can be put to better use elsewhere, but others say the tests keep drug usage at a minimum.
High School Assistant Principal Don Olson is one person who feels the testing should be discontinued.
"We feel the program is somewhat ineffective because we are only seeing two-to-three students per year show up positive," Olson said.
Currently, students at Del Norte High who are engaged in extracurricular activities are required to participate in the random tests. Olson said the nature of the testing is disruptive and costly.
"A student can be called for testing six-to-eight times per year and it disrupts classroom time and work time," said Olson. "We don't want to give up on the drug testing completely, but if a coach has a suspicion, or a teacher or an administrator, then we can do the tests."
Olson said he believes by testing students only when drug use is suspected would save the school thousands of dollars in the long run.
Sydney Patterson, who conducts the tests for North Coast Health Screening in Crescent City, disagreed. Patterson, who also conducts tests for businesses, said the effectiveness of random testing cannot be measured by how many students receive positive results.
"The reason employers and schools put a random drug testing program in place is because it's an effective deterrent," Patterson said. "... if you are going to lose your job or your place on the team, you're not going to do it."
The fate of the random-test program locally may ultimately be decided by state officials, according to Principal Jan Moorehouse. The program is being funded through a $20,000 state grant and the grant overseers want to see direct results.
"It's possible they do not want to continue the program because there is no data to show it is a deterrent," said Moorehouse.
Responding to rumors that the tests are ineffective because of student deceit, Patterson added she doesn't believe it's possible for students to alter results in random tests.
"We deal with people from all walks of life who are very sophisticated in this and they don't have a way of beating it," Patterson said. "I don't believe students are experienced and knowledgeable enough to circumvent the tests."
School administrators brought the issue to the attention of the Del Norte County Unified School District last week for discussion. Olson said he hopes the matter will be addressed at the next board meeting May 9.