School Drug Test Violates Rights, Couple Contends 

  School Drug Test Violates Rights, Couple Contends 

Posted by FoM on February 12, 2000 at 12:00:35 PT
By David Stevens, Contributor to The DMN 
Source: Dallas Morning News 

Policy says students who don't get screened face punishment. For Larry Tannahill, the issue of testing Lockney students for drug use is a constitutional one. "To me, they're telling these kids they are guilty until they prove themselves innocent," he said. But for many in this South Plains community of about 1,200, drug testing is no more invasive than a tetanus shot, and every bit as necessary. 
"You can't get a good education when somebody who is drunk or under the influence of something . . . is disrupting your class," high school junior Jeffrey Hunter said. Lockney school officials late last year approved drug, alcohol and tobacco screening for all students from grades six through 12. Those initial tests, administered last week, will be followed by random tests the remainder of the school year. Only one set of parents - Mr. Tannahill and his wife Traci - declined to give permission for the screenings, school officials have said. Now the Tannahills are asking officials to back off plans to punish their sixth-grade son, Brady. District policy calls for in-school suspension, suspension from extracurricular activities and drug-counseling sessions for students who test positive or refuse to take the screening test. For now, school officials are holding off on punishing his son, Mr. Tannahill said. They met with Mr. Tannahill on Friday, but nothing was resolved, Mrs. Tannahill said. School Superintendent Raymond Lusk is no longer talking to reporters about the controversy. But when the issue was being discussed last November, he said officials wanted to institute testing as a deterrent to drug use. The idea was that students would be less likely to use drugs if they knew they might be tested and caught. Substance abuse in Lockney is no more prevalent than in similar-sized communities, school officials have said. There is no evidence that substance abuse may be increasing, Mr. Lusk has said. But teachers, administrators and parents are concerned about the issue and prompted board members to adopt a testing policy. Kathy Hunter, Jeffrey's mother who also teaches in the elementary school, is among those applauding the school board's decision to enact a testing policy. "I compare it to children being inoculated before they come to school - for the health of the entire human population," said Mrs. Hunter, who also submitted to the drug test, as did all other teachers and staff members. "If drugs are rampant, that affects so many people in so many ways. I believe it is OK to do this [drug testing] because it's for the common good." Mr. Tannahill, 35, who also has a son in fifth grade not yet affected by the drug-testing policy, does not agree. He said the school's involvement, however well-intended, interferes with his responsibility as a parent. "One of my arguments has been if you think you've got a problem with one of my boys, call me. I'll take care of it. That's my job. The good Lord gave them to us, not to the school district," he said. Mr. Tannahill, a Floyd County farmer, said he is a product of Lockney schools; he graduated in 1982. He sees irony in his dispute with the school. "When I went to school here, they had to teach me our Constitution," he said. "And they taught me that if you don't stand up for your rights, they will be taken away from you. That's what I'm doing - I'm standing up for my son's rights." Mr. Tannahill said the drug-testing policy violates the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure. He said school officials have no authority to test for drugs without cause and he has threatened court action if the district proceeds with its new policy. "They're going to punish my child because I believe in the Constitution. That's not right," he said. "They're not only taking him out of extracurricular activities, they're going to punish him in academics. You have a right to go to school, to get an education. I really think they went too far with this." The courts have been involved in school drug-testing cases before. A U.S. Supreme Court action in October allowed an Indiana school district to continue drug testing of students without cause. That decision, however, set no precedent since it was not a ruling but only allowed a federal appellate court's decision to stand, officials said. Legal experts do not agree whether the Indiana case will affect a federal case pending from Tulia, Texas, which challenges that district's ability to screen all students participating in extracurricular activities. The ruling in the Tulia case could set a precedent for schools that want to test without cause. Lockney officials have said they are confident their policy will stand up in court. They have been talking about a testing policy for two years, rejecting one proposal before adopting this one. "I think the school district was being very careful to do the right thing," Mrs. Hunter said. "They wanted to carefully consider the options and find the best possible way to help the most students." A few days after approving a preliminary testing policy in November, school board President Bernie Ford said he had mixed feelings about it. "I don't believe it is totally the school's responsibility, but I think society is forcing it on us," he said. "People want the school to do something. "I voted against it last time, and I'm not sure if I did the right thing. I voted for it this time, and I'm not sure if I did the right thing. It's a no-win situation because we're even having to talk about it." David Stevens is a free-lance writer based in Amarillo.Lockney, Texas Published: February 12, 20001999 The Dallas Morning NewsRelated Articles:Father Fights School Suspension of Son Over Mandatory Drug Tests News Drug Testing Archives: News Drug Testing Search of Articles: 

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Comment #1 posted by Michael Dale on April 18, 2001 at 09:34:52 PT:

Why would you not?
It is not like you are searching us everyday we come into a school. I am 16 and I would rather have a drug test then not. That would get the drugs at least out of the schools. And if then at least you would be able to tell your parents that you have never done drugs and they would belive you. That would fix alot of things if they would do that in our schools. Yea alot would get in trouble but that was there choose not mine and most people get away with it and will have to live with it for the rest of there lifes. This would at least get them some help. If you are aginst this then you are not standing up for your rights you are posioning your next generation."All it takes for evil to conquer is for good men to do nothing."
School Drug Test Violates Rights, Couple Contends 
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