Wayne Colleague Defends Principal 

Wayne Colleague Defends Principal 
Posted by FoM on March 01, 2000 at 05:09:16 PT
By Scott Fallon, Staff Writer
Source: Bergen Record
Bolstering a suspended colleague's defense, a Wayne school administrator testified Tuesday that he would not order a urinalysis of a student suspected of drug use if a cursory medical exam indicated the student was not high.Testimony by Wayne Hills High School Vice Principal Robert Santangelo added strength to Joseph Graceffo's contention that discretion can be and often is used in these cases.
Graceffo faces termination after he was charged administratively with not heeding a Wayne Hills teacher's alert in January 1999 that 11th-grader Nicholas Lucatorto smelled of marijuana smoke. Graceffo took Lucatorto to the school medical staff, who cleared him, and then spoke only with the boy's mother. Two weeks later, Lucatorto died from heroin use at a house party.Testimony has shown that drug testing was then stepped up in Wayne schools and action was begun against Graceffo for his actions in the Lucatorto case.According to the district's policy, an administrator must order a urinalysis for any student suspected by school staff of drug use. Officials testifying for the school district have said they have a "zero-tolerance" policy when deciding whether to order a drug screening.Whether Graceffo acted differently from other administrators appears to be at the heart of the case. School nurses have testified that it was the exception, not the rule, to automatically order drug tests for suspect students. In testimony Monday, Graceffo said the trigger for a test was either a direct request by a teacher or confirmation by school medical staff that a student appeared to be under the influence.The hearing, which has spanned 15 days over several months, continues Thursday. If Administrative Law Judge Mumtaz Bari-Brown finds that Graceffo violated policy, his fate would be up to the state commissioner of education.On Tuesday, Santangelo was questioned by Graceffo's lawyer, Robert Schwartz, in a pattern requiring mostly "yes" and "no" answers. He agreed that his understanding of normal procedure was that he would have to await an evaluation by a school nurse before he would order a drug test from a student.Santangelo, testifying in behalf of the defense, said the only time discretion is not used is when a teacher plainly asks that a student be drug tested and not merely suspects drug use.He said that after Lucatorto died, the drug policy was more strictly enforced at Wayne Hills. "If a kid had his head down and fell asleep, he would be tested," Santangelo said."Was that the case before January 1999?" Schwartz asked."No," Santangelo replied.Newark:Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2000Copyright  2000 Bergen Record Corp. Related Articles:Official Defends Drug Test Decision
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