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Community hears details of Valpo High’s drug testing plan

Updated: May 4, 2013 6:26AM



VALPARAISO — Valparaiso High School parents, students and community members weighed in Tuesday night on the school board’s proposal to randomly drug test students.

At a meeting at Northview School, those attending got a brief review of the legalities of the testing from Board Attorney David Hollenbeck.

“Our policy is not to be one where we are trying to make new law,” Hollenbeck said. “I’ve kept it within the parameters of the courts.”

The courts allow random testing of students who are participating voluntarily in extracurricular activities or who have driving permits, he said.

School Superintendent Mike Berta again stressed that the program is not meant to be punitive but to help catch students who might be experimenting with drugs before they get into trouble.

Under the plan, 25 percent of the school’s students will be randomly chosen yearly for a screening. A positive test will result in a meeting with the substance abuse coordinator, who will give the student a substance abuse question-and-answer test and report to parents. For eight weeks, the student will attend Wednesday after-school drug education classes and will lose parking privileges for 45 days.

The program will not replace existing honor codes for those taking part in athletics and extracurricular activities.

A second positive test would mean the student is moved to Level 2 of the program, where drug education is replaced by professional drug or alcohol counseling at family expense. A third positive test will result in further restrictions on extracurricular activity for the rest of the student’s high school career and the permanent loss of parking privileges.

Larry Boss, director of community research at Valparaiso University, said testing programs have mixed results and urged the school board to do more research before adopting the random testing. Board President Mark Maassel said random testing would give students one more reason to say no to their peers.

He quoted a Valparaiso High School student who said they wished there was such a program because they were staying home on weekends because of rampant underage drinking at parties.

Another school administrator, Jim Doane, estimated the cost of testing and personnel for the Wednesday after-school classes would be $15,000 to 20,000 yearly.

One parent said her son’s addiction problem might have been caught early on if the program had been there for him.

“They couldn’t call me,” she said of the school corporation, “because they didn’t have proof.”

Barb Young. director of the Porter County Foundation, commended the board for being proactive in combatting substance abuse by teens and encouraged it to approve the testing policy.

The board will further discuss the proposal at its April 16 meeting at Parkview School.



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