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School officials say they favor drug testing

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 28, 2015 at 3:50 PM

When it comes to drug testing, schools in the area that have done it would happily do it again.

"I think it gives students a reason to say 'no,'" said Brad Ehrman, athletic director in Upper Sandusky. That district stopped drug-testing due to the cost, he said.

While they were testing, Ehrman said they did have some positive tests, and they had one lawsuit, which was settled out of court.

If the district could afford it, however, he'd do it again. Even if it helps just one student, he said, it's worth it.

Those sentiments were echoed by members of the three districts in the area with drug-testing policies of their own. Also like Ehrman, none had anything harder than their belief to go on.

Joe Morabito at Plymouth said they have kept their policy in effect despite the cost because they believe it is an effective deterrent to use.

Denise Dilsaver, South Central High School principal and former athletic director at Western Reserve, also agreed. "I really do believe it does (work)." It's not the "end-all, be-all," she said, "but it's a legitimate attempt at a deterrent."

"It's not easy being a teenager in 2007," she said, "and maybe this could help." She said she's heard students trying to guess when the next test will be, which shows that it's on their minds. That's about all you can hope for, she said.

As to whether it's fair or an invasion of privacy, Dilsaver said, "there's very few professions that don't have it any more." She sees it as fair preparation for the real world. The students do sign consent forms for the drug testing if they want to participate in extra-curricular activities. The Supreme Court does not allow schools to test everyone. It only allows random drug testing among students in extra-curriculars and those driving to school.

Superintendent Ben Chaffee is also cognizant of the students' right to privacy and is careful to maintain all records' confidentiality in his office, he said.

In this their first year testing, South Central has spent a bit less than $5,000 to test their roughly 250 students. They have paid for it through various grants.

It costs Western Reserve about $10,000 a year to test their eligible students, principal Tom Lehman said. For Western, that money comes out of the general fund.

It's Lehman's second year testing and fourth for the district. "It's OK," he said. As he candidly put it, "I have no real scientific basis, but I assume it is a deterrent." After all, he also pointed out, it's pretty difficult to quantify something that prevents something else from happening.

He admitted that most students are pretty conversant in the abilities and disabilities of the testing.

Most drug tests do not test for alcohol, which is still by far the biggest substance abused by teens. In addition, most drugs (including) alcohol are detectable for less than 24 hours. Marijuana is the notable exception. It stays in the system up to 30 days.

Western always schedules the tests for Mondays to mitigate, as much as possible, the time problem. They also test for alcohol.

Western hasn't been sued and parents haven't contested a result in the two years he's been there, Lehman said. Nor has anyone refused to sign the consent form.

In fact, most people in the community seem to be in favor of the testing. If anything, he said, people tell him they should test everyone.

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