Inconsistency Cited in Wayne Drug Test Rule 

Inconsistency Cited in Wayne Drug Test Rule 
Posted by FoM on October 26, 1999 at 10:52:25 PT
By Scott Fallon, Staff Writer
Source: Bergen Record
It was the exception, not the rule, for Wayne school administrators automatically to order urinalysis of students they suspected of using drugs.
That norm, outlined by school nurses testifying in court on Monday, is contrary to the "zero tolerance" policy depicted by district officials who want to fire a high school vice principal for exercising discretion in one tragic case.At an administrative law hearing of charges against suspended Vice Principal Joseph Graceffo, a school nurse testified Monday that teachers and administrators, although suspecting drug use, often waited for the results of a cursory medical examination before requesting that a student be given a urinalysis.This appears to go against school officials' assertion that school administrators must order drug tests immediately when a teacher suspects a student of being under the influence of drugs.Graceffo is accused of violating that policy on Jan. 21 by not heeding a teacher's request and ordering a drug test for Nicholas Lucatorto, who died two weeks later from a heroin overdose at an overnight house party.Nurses involved in the incident said Monday that they had examined Lucatorto after Graceffo brought him in, and found no obvious signs of drug use.Testifying on behalf of the district, Marilyn DiStefano, the Wayne Hills nurse who examined Lucatorto, said teachers often would wait until a nurse indicated there were physical signs of drug use before requesting that administrators order a drug screening."Most teachers were reluctant. They want us to make the decision" to test, DiStefano said. "There were very few times when a teacher said, 'I want a student tested.' They just don't want to make that commitment."But under the policy, teachers generally are responsible for requesting a drug test from a nurse and a vice principal if they suspect a student of being under the influence of drugs. A vice principal then is required to authorize a urinalysis.DiStefano testified that in another instance, on Jan. 15, a student believed to have been smoking marijuana was referred to her for examination by Wayne Hills Principal Eugene Sudol.She told Sudol that upon examination, she did not smell marijuana on the student. Sudol, who testifed this month that he would go as far as testing a student whom he found sleeping in class, dissuaded Vice Principal Robert Santangelo from authorizing the urinalysis, according to DiStefano.She said that surprised her. "I expected that we would test," she told the administrative law court.Following Lucatorto's death on Feb. 6, DiStefano said, memos were circulated to the staff detailing that it was imperative to test."The difference then was that almost every student referred was tested," she said.Last week, Susan Ammerman, a physical education teacher, testified that on Jan. 21, she had smelled marijuana on Lucatorto and noticed his pupils were dilated. DiStefano and another nurse who examined him testifed Monday that his eyes were normal and he smelled only of cigarette smoke.Following district policy, DiStefano gave Lucatorto a 15-minute physical examination to see if he needed to be taken to a hospital.Lucatorto's pulse was normal and his pupils reacted to light and were equal in size. DiStefano said that because the room where Ammerman evaluated Lucatorto was dark, his eyes would probably have been dilated naturally.DiStefano said she was hindered by a sinus infection that day, so she called in substitute nurse Deborah Corto specifically to smell the teen.Corto then took the stand and testifed that she smelled only cigarette smoke. "Marijuana smells sweeter than tobacco," she said.The two nurses reported their assessment to Graceffo, making no recommendation. On Monday, they said the only way to be certain about Lucatorto's condition that day would have been to have him undergo a drug test. But they said Graceffo told them the teen would not be tested.While DiStefano's examination was going on, Graceffo phoned Lucatorto's mother to tell her about the incident. Lucatorto's mother informed Graceffo that her son had been sick with the flu and was on prescription medication, according to Graceffo's attorney, Robert Schwartz.The hearing before Judge Mumtaz Bari-Brown will continue Nov. 9.Tuesday, October 26, 1999Copyright  1999 Bergen Record Corp. Related Articles:Teacher Says She's Been Ostracized Over Drug Test - 10/23/99 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 #1 posted by T.W. on October 26, 1999 at 17:25:18 PT
If an individual is not a habitual pot smoker.... say once or twice a month. Generally, how long will it stay in his or her system. Back in 1989, I passed a urine test several days after getting high. Would that have been a result of me being a casual user at the time.If anyone can shed some factual data regarding this, it would be much appreciated.            Thanks              TW  
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