Administrators Unsure About When To Test Students 

Administrators Unsure About When To Test Students 
Posted by FoM on June 25, 2000 at 13:08:24 PT
By Amy Westfeldt, Associated Press
Source: Boston Globe
 A teacher reports that a 16-year-old student smells of marijuana. A vice principal disagrees and decides not to test him for drugs. Two weeks later, the student dies after using heroin at a party. An administrative judge's ruling this week that Wayne Hills High School vice principal Joseph Graceffo violated a state law by refusing to drug-test Nicholas Lucatorto has worried other school administrators, who say they will no longer have any discretion in deciding when to test students. 
They are waiting anxiously for Education Commissioner David Hespe's final ruling on the decision by Administrative Law Judge Mumtaz Bari-Brown, and say it could cause principals to test students for drugs at a higher rate in the future. ''This is sort of a strange decision,'' said Joanne Bartoletti, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, which helped defend Graceffo. ''It sort of puts a chilling effect on the discretionary role that an administrator should have,'' she said. Hespe has 45 days to review Bari-Brown's ruling and reach a decision on this case, the first in the state to punish an administrator for failing to test a student for drugs. The Wayne school district suspended Graceffo after the January 1999 incident and went to court to fire him. Graceffo declined to test Lucatorto for drugs after a teacher approached him and said the 16-year-old smelled of marijuana. Graceffo and a nurse, however, did not smell marijuana on the student and the nurse thought he smelled of tobacco, said Graceffo's attorney, Robert Schwartz. Graceffo ''did everything he could that day'' to help Lucatorto, the boy's mother, Deborah Lucatorto, told The Record of Hackensack. ''I don't feel Nick should have been tested that day.'' Bari-Brown ruled that Lucatorto should have been tested, but said that Graceffo properly used discretion when deciding against testing a student in 1991. She also ordered that Graceffo return to his job at the high school with a pay cut after a 120-day suspension that he has already served. The judge's ruling was contradictory, Schwartz said, because in one case the judge said the state law required an automatic drug-test but in the 1991 case said it did not. ''Either it is automatic or it isn't automatic,'' Schwartz said. Officials also disagreed over whether the state law, first passed in the 1970s and amended to include testing for alcohol, mandates a test. ''There is nothing in the legislative history to indicate that the statutory provision was not intended to be mandatory,'' Bari-Brown wrote. ''Accordingly, whenever a staff member reports a student whom he/she suspects might be under the influence of drugs, the administrator must implement the drug test.'' Gloria Hancock, director of the state Department of Education's Office of Educational Support Services, says the statute requires a doctor to determine whether a student is under the influence, but doesn't specify how. ''That really is a doctor's call,'' Hancock said. ''There's no current provisions in statute that talks specifically to drug testing.'' The Wayne school district adopted its own policy, however, that requires administrators to drug-test students they suspect are under the influence. Wayne attorney Stephen Fogarty said that the district's interpretation of the law is correct. ''Other districts in New Jersey are going to be asking Wayne for a copy of their policy,'' he predicted. He said that Bari-Brown's decision did not contradict itself because the law says that a teacher has to give reasons for the suspicion that a student has used drugs. In the 1991 case, he said, Graceffo encountered the student and gave no reasons why the student should be tested. Both Graceffo and the Wayne district are appealing various parts of Bari-Brown's ruling. If Hespe upholds it, Graceffo could be back in school by the fall and, administrators say, principals won't hesitate to drug-test students. ''If this decision holds, you'll probably find that principals will err on the side of caution,'' said Mike Yaples, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association. ''It wouldn't matter if the student is working until midnight at a part-time job and just seems tired. It wouldn't matter if parents were upset. I'd think you'd find that principals are just going to say, 'Our hands our tied.' '' Newark, N.J. (AP)Published: June 25, 2000 Copyright 2000 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing, Inc. Related Articles:Official Defends Drug Test Decision Fear Testifying in Wayne School Case Test Was A Must, Schools Chief Testifies Says She's Been Ostracized Over Drug Test Drug Testing Archives:
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #1 posted by legalizeit on June 26, 2000 at 06:38:19 PT
let's test anyone who smells of anything resembling MJ because we know all MJ smokers are also hard-core users of heroin, coke, crack, PCP and meth! (of course, if they reek of tobacco, no problem, because we know tobacco is a completely harmless, pastoral herb - not a drug - because it is legal and we are getting big $$$ from the industry!)Why? Because MJ is a gateway drug! THE gateway drug! Pay no attention to what the IOM report said, just listen to us because we know all the facts about drugs, and the bottom line is, the most dangerous drug is a 12-year-old smoking pot!So, let's draft a law requiring mandatory weekly drug tests of all 12-year-olds, because they are all potentially dangerous! (also, the drug testing companies would like a little more $$$ in exchange for their campaign contributions!)>''If this decision holds, you'll probably find that principals will err on the side of caution,'' Principals will err on the side of the drug testing companies and fascist drug warriors.Next thing we know, they'll be drug-testing kindergartners.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

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