Vice Principal's Inaction Upset Teachers 

Vice Principal's Inaction Upset Teachers 
Posted by FoM on November 10, 1999 at 10:43:45 PT
By Scott Fallon, Staff Writer
Source: Bergen Record
A suspended Wayne high school vice principal wasn't alone in not always enforcing a "zero-tolerance" drug testing policy for students suspected of being under the influence.
But Joseph Graceffo's history of declining to force students to undergo testing was so consistent that a group of alarmed teachers complained to their union that Graceffo's inaction was putting lives at risk.Those details emerged Tuesday during an administrative law hearing at which the district is attempting to fire Graceffo for violating the school board's drug policy.Graceffo, of Wanaque, is accused of not heeding a Wayne Hills High School teacher's request to order a drug test for 11th-grader Nicholas Lucatorto, who died two weeks later from a heroin overdose at an overnight house party.On Monday, another administrator at Wayne Hills admitted that he did not follow board policy after he suspected Lucatorto of drug use.Robert Flower, head of the physical education department, testified that he failed to inform a school nurse, in addition to Graceffo, as required by board policy after he smelled marijuana on the teen.Also at Tuesday's hearing, a teacher said Graceffo had not ordered drug tests on three or four different occasions when requested by other teachers while he was a vice principal at Wayne Valley High School.Linda Remolino testified that she and other teachers sent a letter to the local teachers union demanding action against Graceffo for not ordering drug tests in 1995 while at Wayne Valley."It was a collective opinion that we were putting the whole building at risk," said Remolino, now a guidance counselor at Wayne Hills.The hearing before Judge Mumtaz Bari-Brown will resume Dec. 7 for three days and will likely continue in January.Over the course of the hearings, which began in early October, Graceffo's attorney, Robert Schwartz, has poked holes in the district's assertion that there is a "zero-tolerance" policy when deciding whether to order a drug screening for a student suspected of being under the influence.School nurses have testified 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.Last month, Susan Ammerman, a physical education teacher at Wayne Hills, testified that on Jan. 21, she had smelled marijuana on Lucatorto and noticed that his pupils were dilated. Two school nurses who examined him later testified that his eyes were normal and he smelled only of cigarette smoke.While the nurses were performing their examination, 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. Graceffo decided not to order a urinalysis.The next morning, Flower also reported to Graceffo that he smelled marijuana on Lucatorto that day. Schwartz has maintained that Graceffo thought Flower was referring to the incident with Ammerman and assured Flower the matter had already been "taken care of."Flower said Tuesday that he returned to his office thinking the matter would be resolved by Graceffo."It was a quick conversation," said Flower, testifying on behalf of the district. "I figured [Graceffo] was taking care of" informing the school nurse.But under the local school drug policy, the person who suspects the student of drug use is responsible for telling both a supervisor and a school nurse.Last month, Gary Hall, the district's personnel director who led the school board's investigation of Graceffo, reluctantly agreed that Flower violated the policy, but was not reprimanded.Published: November 10, 1999Copyright  1999 Bergen Record Corp. Related Articles:Random Drug Testing School District's Decision - 11/09/99 Testing Takes a Hit - 11/05/99 Czar Nullifies Need For Drug Test - 11/04/99 ACLU Report Debunks Workplace Urine Testing - 9/14/99 To Sue Over Student Drug Testing - 8/18/99 
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