State Supreme Court ruling forces district to stop random drug testingDistrict looking for other ways to support students BY PAM STEVENS | EDITOR The Lake Stevens School District Board members will be awarded, later this month, with a Magna Award from the American School Board Journal for the implementation of the Student Assistance Program (SAP) and drug-testing program.
The honor is for exemplary innovative programs and excellence in school governance. They were also awarded a $586,000 grant from the U.S Department of Education for school-based drug testing programs. The District is currently in its second year of the grant.
However, after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that random drug testing at schools is unconstitutional and violates students’ privacy, the district will suspend all random drug testing until further notice, District Spokesperson Arlene Hulten said.
After some student athletes and their parents decided to sue the Wahkiakum School District, a small district in southwest Washington, the Superior Court decided that random drug testing in schools was legal. However, the Washington State Supreme Court decided that it was unconstitutional, according to State law.
Let’s back up a couple of years.
In 2004, the Lake Stevens School District decided to survey high school students to find out in which areas students might need additional support from their school and the district. The findings showed a large number of students had or were likely to try and continue to use alcohol and drugs.
Hulten explained that peer pressure has a huge effect on students and that many students might not get involved in drugs or alcohol if not for peer pressure. She also said that the students felt that parents and other leaders were ambivalent to the issue. Another concern was the increased availability of both drugs and alcohol.
“It was alarming to the district board members and district administrators and they wanted to do something about it,” Hulten said.
To help combat the ever evolving epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse among teenagers, along with other teenage issues such as depression and eating disorders, the district came up with the Student Assistance Program to support students and their parents.
This program, along with random drug testing, has been successful in combating these problems.
“Last year the high school realized a 20 percent reduction in drug and alcohol related suspension and expulsion,” Hulten said.
In a 2006 survey, there was a three to five percent decrease in youth that were participating in drugs and alcohol. It was also realized that the students no longer felt that there was community and parental ambivalence to the problem.
One contributing factor to the decrease was that it gave students an “out” if asked to partake in this illegal activity at parties or with friends.
Although the ruling has created a set back for the district, they will still continue the implementation of the SAP.
“This is definitely a step backwards for our district,” Superintendent David Burgess said. “We had a program in place that was making positive changes in the decisions our students were making. Drug and alcohol abuse issues are on the increase across the state and nation and we have to find meaningful ways to help our children make healthy choices.”
The school board and administration are committed to a comprehensive student assistance program that will give students the support they need and will continue to evaluate every possible avenue to assist students in making good choices.
“We’ll re-look at everything in putting programs in place to protect and support kids,” Hulten said.