School district to look at drug testing policy after mom raises concerns

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After her 10-year-old daughter was randomly drug tested for the third time this school year, Kristin Cassell decided that was too much.

Her daughter, Natalie, is an honors student who just finished fifth grade at Susquenita Middle School in Perry County.

The Susquenita School District randomly drug tests students involved in extracurricular activities as well as those who drive to school.

Kristin said, “It’s not based on probable cause. It’s not based on reasonable suspicion. Why are we punishing them that way?”

The district adopted the policy in 2002. School Board President Dr. Michael Jones, who was not on the board at the time, says the goal of the testing was for it to be a deterrent to drug use.

“When you’re doing random testing, if someone is selected 10 times, that goes to show you, I think that’s proof that it is truly random,” said Jones.

Cassell brought her concerns to the school board Tuesday night. She said her primary concern is about testing students as young as 10. After she spoke, several board members agreed the policy needs another look.

Superintendent Kent Smith said in the past school year, 278 tests were conducted. Of those, he said six came back positive.

Board members asked school staff to gather data on the random drug screens to determine whether they’re effective at deterring drug use and how pervasive drug use is in the district’s schools.

When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered the issue of random drug screens in schools in 2003, the justices said school districts need to show there is a drug problem among students to justify the program.

Smith said he believes that evidence exists. The board’s next regular meeting is in August.

A study released earlier this year by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania questions the effectiveness of random drug screens, calling them “relatively ineffective.” To see that study, click here.

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