Suspended Principal Seeks Drug Records 

Suspended Principal Seeks Drug Records 
Posted by FoM on October 19, 1999 at 08:05:10 PT
By Scott Fallon, Staff Writer
Source: Bergen Record
This much is clear: Suspended Vice Principal Joseph Graceffo did not order 11th-grader Nicholas Lucatorto to be tested for drugs even though school policy dictated that was the proper course of action after teachers suspected the teen of smoking marijuana.
But whether Graceffo acted differently from other school administrators in exercising discretion appears to be an issue at the heart of a state administrative court case in which Graceffo faces dismissal.A lawyer for the Wayne Hills High School vice principal filed a lawsuit Monday demanding that the district release detailed drug testing records over the last four years that could help reveal the true pattern of compliance.The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in Paterson, asks for nurses' logs that show how many students were referred to them for examination on suspicion of using drugs and how many were actually ordered to undergo urinalysis. In addition, it seeks the number of referrals made to the "core team" -- a group of teachers who monitor students believed to be at risk for drug use.Graceffo's lawyer, Robert Schwartz, is seeking to show conflicts in the "zero tolerance" policy on drug testing. It's that policy that they are citing in saying Graceffo should be fired for not compelling Lucatorto to undergo testing.Graceffo was suspended and charged with violating school policy after Lucatorto overdosed on heroin and died at an overnight house party Feb. 6, two weeks after Graceffo's decision.Under local and state policy, a school administrator must require testing of any student if a teacher suspects that student of taking drugs or notices behavioral changes. In Wayne's public schools, if a student is suspected of drug use, the parents are given the option of having the family physician or school staff administer a urinalysis. If the test is positive, the student is suspended from school and must complete treatment before being allowed to return.The lawsuit comes just three days before a hearing resumes in state administrative court on the district's effort to dismiss Graceffo.Earlier this month, Wayne Hills Principal Gene Sudol testified that until a teacher told Graceffo that she suspected Lucatorto of smoking marijuana in late January, only one student had been tested for drugs in the previous five months.But after the 17-year-old died, the school tested 55 students during the rest of the school year. At the same time, 31 students were tested at Wayne Valley High School. District officials attribute the discrepancy to a heightened awareness among Wayne Hills teachers following the death of Lucatorto.Graceffo, who Schwartz argues is a scapegoat, faces four administrative charges that he violated board policy by not automatically ordering the drug test for Lucatorto.The hearing, before Administrative Law Judge Mumtaz Bari-Brown in Newark, is scheduled to resume Thursday.Schwartz had requested the nurses' records before the hearings began earlier this month. Board of Education attorney Steven Fogarty has argued that because the logs have students' names on them, they are confidential and therefore he is not required to give them to Schwartz. But in the lawsuit, Schwartz states that he has no objection if the district removes the students' names or their numerical identification from the reports.Both Fogarty and Schwartz were unavailable for comment Monday.According to testimony earlier this month, Susan Ammerman, a physical education teacher, informed both a school nurse and Graceffo that she had smelled marijuana smoke on Lucatorto on Jan. 21. But Schwartz has argued that Graceffo and the nurse did not smell marijuana on the teen and that Ammerman did not specifically ask for Lucatorto to be tested.Instead, Graceffo alerted Lucatorto's mother about the incident and said the boy would be tested if another report came in indicating marijuana use.The next morning, Robert Flower, head of the physical education Department, also reported to Graceffo that he smelled marijuana on Lucatorto that day. But Schwartz has argued that Graceffo thought Flower was referring to the incident with Ammerman and assured Flower the matter had already been "taken care of."Tuesday, October 19, 1999Copyright  1999 Bergen Record Corp. 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: