By Eileen Persike
A School District of Rhinelander Board of Education committee Monday evening heard a report on a subject that is becoming increasingly popular in Wisconsin: student drug testing. Rhinelander High School principal David Ditzler, Activities Director Brian Paulson and District Nurse Kerri Schmidt attended a forum at Northland Pines High School in April, and reported to the Operations and Strategic Planning Committee.
After attending the forum and speaking to officials from other school districts, Ditzler told committee members Mike Roberts and David Holperin (committee member Dennis O’Brien was not at the meeting) that schools are implementing a range of tactics, from education to testing and holding the students accountable.
“Since that time we’ve had conversations and considered local viewpoints and looked at other school districts and what they do,” Ditzler said. “I believe what Kerri, Brian and I believe, is that a plan of education would always be the best basis for our school district.”
Education would address AODA issues, risky behavior, healthy lifestyles and healthy living. If, Ditzler added, the school district were ever asked to consider random drug testing, it would be done on the platform of a solid education program in place.
The three district representatives attended the forum at the school board’s request. Superintendent Kelli Jacobi said drug testing has been an ongoing topic for coaches, and this “appeared to be the perfect opportunity to gather more information.” Committee chair Mike Roberts said he would like to explore the issue further.
“I’ve heard enough from coaches and other people who feel their hands are tied and they can’t do anything until a kid is arrested,” Roberts said. “I think it’s worth looking into; I think it’s a piece that could help our staff and coaches.”
The legality of such testing was questioned. While there is court support, the American Academy of Pediatrics is opposed to the idea of drug testing students, according to Schmidt. The AAP website states that it “recommends against the use of school-based drug testing programs because of limited evidence of efficacy and potential risks associated with this procedure.”
In most schools where testing is done, students involved in co-curricular activities and those with school parking passes would be eligible for the random selection. It would be up to the Board of Education to make the policy which would include testing frequency, how it is administered, and what the procedure is if a student tests positive. The committee members and administrators at the meeting agreed that full board support and community information sessions will be necessary to move ahead.
At Jacobi’s suggestion, the topic will come back to committee in June as a discussion and possible action item on the agenda, and “through proper channels move it from operations to the full board.”
Read the full story in The May 15 Rhinelander Star Journal.