Teacher Says She's Been Ostracized Over Drug Test 

Teacher Says She's Been Ostracized Over Drug Test 
Posted by FoM on October 23, 1999 at 08:00:32 PT
By Scott Fallon, Staff Writer
Source: Bergen Record 
A lot of Wayne Hills High School teachers no longer speak to their colleague Susan Ammerman.Some see it as a sign of loyalty to popular Vice Principal Joseph Graceffo, who faces dismissal after he disagreed with Ammerman over whether a 17-year-old student had been smoking marijuana in January. 
Graceffo decided not to order a drug test. The student, Nicholas Lucatorto, died two weeks later from a heroin overdose at a house party.Ammerman, a district physical education teacher for 22 years, took the stand Friday at a tenure hearing at which the district is seeking to fire Graceffo. School officials charge that Graceffo violated local and state policy that requires a school administrator to order the testing of any student if a teacher suspects that student of taking drugs or notices behavioral changes.Graceffo's lawyer, Robert Schwartz, has presented evidence of inconsistencies in carrying out the policy by other staff members who were not reprimanded in the past.The hearings, which began early this month, are not near completion and will continue Monday.On Friday, Ammerman said before Administrative Law Judge Mumtaz Bari-Brown that she has been ostracized by numerous colleagues since Graceffo was suspended in March from his $99,000-a-year job.Testifying for the district, she said that on Jan. 21 she went before class to speak to Lucatorto about past absences when she noticed a strong odor of marijuana on him. Ammerman said that she immediately summoned the school nurse, who, together with Graceffo, came to the hallway, and "told them that he [Lucatorto] reeked of marijuana" and that his pupils were dilated.But on cross-examination, Schwartz challenged Ammerman on her memory. He said the nurse, another teacher, and a substance abuse counselor whom he deposed weeks before the hearing said Ammerman did not mention that the teen's pupils were dilated when she relayed the incident to them. Ammerman maintained on the stand that she did.Ammerman said Graceffo took Lucatorto to the main office of the school, then returned to her class a few minutes later. He told her that he had alerted Lucatorto's mother about the incident and that she had said he was on prescription medicine."He said there were no behavioral changes that warranted a drug test," said Ammerman. "I was upset because he wasn't going to test him."Ammerman said she didn't want to go over Graceffo's authority by telling Principal Gene Sudol of the incident. After attending a dance team competition in Orlando, she did complain two weeks later to the "core team" -- a group of teachers who monitor students believed to be at risk for drug use.Two days later, Feb. 6, Lucatorto was found dead at an overnight house party from a heroin overdose."I didn't sleep for many days," after hearing of Lucatorto's death, Ammerman told the court. "I felt I was to blame . . . because I didn't go higher."When she met Graceffo days after Lucatorto's death, Ammerman testified, Graceffo said to her, "If we could only turn back the clock."The morning after Ammerman suspected Lucatorto of drug use, 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.Prior to the incident with Lucatorto, Ammerman said, she had reported suspected student drug use to administrators on four occasions. All were tested. Three of the students tested positive for illegal drugs or alcohol. The fourth was on prescription medicine.Ammerman was one of several Wayne Hills teachers who drafted a petition asking the Board of Education not to punish Graceffo in the wake of Lucatorto's death."I like him and respect him," she said.Still, said Ammerman, "the faculty is split" in its loyalties, and "A good percentage hasn't spoken to me in months."Saturday, October 23, 1999Copyright  1999 Bergen Record Corp.  Related Article:Hearing Explores Lapses in Drug Rules - 10/22/99 Testing Goes to High School - 8/20/99 Sues OK School District Over Student Testing - 8/20/99 
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Comment #4 posted by Doc-Hawk on October 24, 1999 at 08:02:53 PT:
As my old boss used to say: "If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough." (He was tough....but not too dumb.)The lies told in the name if the War on Drugs only compound the problems. Kids are generally not stupid....but they are immortal and able to see through a lot of the lies. With the obvious lie of cannabis ruining your life (other than the law enforcement aspect, which CAN certainly screw your life up), other "facts" are all suspect, even if they are true.I was told there are three levels of intelligence. The lowest is those that never learn. The second is those that learn from their own mistakes. And the highest is those that learn from the mistakes of others.Where does that put the drug-war polititians? (1 - 1.09? A few of them seem to be dimly aware that something is happening.)Where should we be? (3.0+ There are enough tragedies out there every day that we should have ample lessons to learn from.)GET ACTIVE!!!! Help raise a polititian's awareness - even if only be raising your own.
WarOnSomeDrugs Thirty (+) years of repression.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on October 23, 1999 at 12:23:38 PT
My Thoughts
What we are becoming is a nation that is suppose to read the future. We are being held accountable for what might happen and if it does you are treated like this teacher. We are not God and we aren't suppose to be but that is what all these laws are saying. We are individuals and some will make stupid decisions and some will die. That is the way it has always been and we can't protect everyone from everything! 
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Comment #2 posted by Chris Knestrick on October 23, 1999 at 11:02:17 PT:
Escellent point, kaptinemo. That's something that I've been giving a lot of thought to,lately. In one of the actricles from a day or so ago, they were talking about a student who was found dead with traces of GHB is his liver (although they don't know if it was the GHB that killed him, people's mind's have already been made up, I think). His mother wanted know how vulnerable and at risk the children are. My answer is "totally vulnerable" because the enemy - the person who subjected the child to this drug - is the child themselves! People aren't running around injecting kids with drugs - the kids take them themselves!!! That's why all this save the children BS amazes me - it's the children that are the danger to themselves. If they couldn't do something stupid like take GHB, they'd lay down in a road and play chicken with trucks (and then have their parents sure the movie company for causing their deaths!). The problem is, not one wants to take responsiblity for their own actions. For all the political parties talk about personal responsiblity when it comes to their own issues, both overlook responsibility when it comes to others. I'm sorry a kid hurts themselves, but let's not destory thousands of other lives because kids will do what they've done since the dawn of time, and that is do stupid things!
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on October 23, 1999 at 10:45:49 PT
Choices... stupid and otherwise
There is a recurring theme in the kind of reportage we see above, but is rarely examined to determine if it is warranted: to what extant do you have a right to stop someone who is doing something stupid? To answer my own question; when what they are doing violates the rights or personal safety of those around them. Period.Heroin use, in my estimation, is stupid. Using something that can kill you (cannabis obviously cannot) is stupid. In short, at the risk of enraging some of you, the kid was stupid by choosing to use heroin. But how do you prevent stupidity? If parents can't, teachers can't, administrators can't, peers can't, then who can?Despite the "They lied to me about pot, maybe they lied about heroin" argument, the facts about heroin's debilitating and dangerous effects have been available in any library for over a hundred years. If the kid, as so many others have, thought he was immune, well... he just proved himself wrong, and evolutionists right. Another sad example why, despite all the (supposedly good) reasons behind the War on (Some) Drugs, we still have tragedies like this. The laws have not stopped a single overdose. Nor will they ever.Nor will they ever stop someone from being stupid.
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