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Duluth Public Schools Consider Drug Testing Students

Updated: 01/16/2014 4:24 PM
Created: 01/15/2014 4:50 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Drug use is a problem in schools everywhere, but the Duluth School District could become one of the first in the state to address the problem with random drug tests for students.

Administrators said they are only researching the idea, but it has been working in the Superior schools for years. But will parents accept the change?

“As a parent, I'm okay with it if it's going to curb the drug problem in high schools then I say, 'Go for it,'”Deb Johnson said.

Johnson is president of the Duluth East Parent-Teacher-Student Association. She said other parents in the association support the idea, but random drug tests are a hot topic.

“I think anything new there's going to be some resistance. So I think there will be some resistance if they do put it into place,” Johnson said.

Duluth administrators said taking part in certain extra-curricular activities would make students eligible for testing. Examples include sports, but also things like students obtaining a parking permit for the school. On top of that students and on of their parents would have to consent to the tests.

Climate Coordinator Ron Lake said the system is working in Superior. “Superior High School over across in Wisconsin, they've been doing randomized suspicionless drug testing for about seven years and from their reports they're saying it works well,” Lake said.

It works because students don't want to risk losing privileges according to Denfeld Activities Director Tom Pearson.

“It's a positive peer pressure for a student to say, 'I'm not going to partake because I don't want to lose this privilege,' or the ability to play hockey, or be in the speech program, or any of those types of activities,” Pearson said.

And the district disciplined students for 64 illegal drug incidents in the 2012-2013 school year. The proposed tests can screen for a range of drugs including marijuana and methamphetamine. Some students want to see the problem addressed with the random drug tests.

“I think they should do it because some people think they can do just whatever they want, whenever they want,” Denfeld Sophomore Triston Gibby-Wells said.

School officials said it would cost about $5,000 a year per school to test four students every week. Those officials stressed this is only a proposal and students and parents would be involved if it moves forward. No testing would be implemented until the fall of 2015 at the earliest.

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