Controversy over drug testing in schools

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Controversy over drug testing in schools

By Courtny Gerrish. CREATED Nov 25, 2013 - UPDATED: Nov 25, 2013

MILWAUKEE - Kids overdosing on heroin; it's happening more and more in Wisconsin. As that drug gains a foothold in the state, how are schools keeping kids on track? 

The controversial and bold step to fight drugs in our schools.
 
Some call it intrusive, others say it's a necessary tool to make sure kids stay clean. The Supreme Court has decided random drug testing is constitutional for student athletes and kids in clubs.  So why aren't more Wisconsin school districts getting on board?
 
It's game day at Arrowhead High School.  This district is a powerhouse when it comes to almost all sports, and student athletes take a pledge agreeing to random drug tests.  Arrowhead's neighbors to the east have the same approach to keep kids drug free.  In fact Pewaukee was first in the state.  "It wasn't widespread across the United States at that point" Pewaukee Principal Marty Van Hulle pointed out.  
 
In the 2004-2005 school year the Pirates started randomly testing all high school athletes and kids in co-curricular activities.  Today that's about 80% of students. Van Hulle says they haven't looked back, "if there's a tool at our disposal that we can use, to reinforce that we want kids to make healthy choices and be on the straight and narrow why wouldn't we use that?"
 
Today it's part of the culture at Pewaukee High School.  Soccer parent John Wirth says no question testing is worth it, "this community tries every day to keep that at bay. This, we think, is just one little step to help." 
 
The parents of #21 Chandler Bentley are also on board.  "I think that it continues to keep kids thinking about what are my choices,"  Nancy Bentley said and Chandler couldn't agree more "I'm totally against the drugs."  But this high school junior knows the problem is out there.  "Every day you hear about it. It's in class, in sports."
Chandler feels holding some to a higher standard is good for all students. "If you surround yourself with the right people, as well as try to influence your way upon other people, I think it can really help the entire student body." 
 
But that's not the popular opinion.  So far only a handful of districts statewide do random drug testing.  In 2009, when Arrowhead started its policy, it looked like more schools were coming on board.  One by one they rejected the idea.
 
Janesville tried it for several years then dropped the program.  Former school board member Mike Rundle does not believe it worked that well.  He said budget issues came up and the program wasn't worth the cost.  "Usually students that were caught were either because somebody reported seeing them using them or whatever, that was followed by a police report." 
 
But some districts did choose a modified approach.  Hamilton High School counselor Kristin Hasbrook pointed out "we have high expectations for them."  Hasbrook told us the district does randomly test but an athlete or student in a club has to be busted for drugs, first.  "It comes down to that mindset of trust. It's the first thing that we do."
 
Looking back Pewaukee's principal said he wouldn't change a thing.   "I love the fact that we've got another tool for our kids to have a reason to say no, because some kids aren't strong enough."
 
Principal Van Hulle would like to test everyone, but the Supreme Court has not approved policy that far reaching.  One note here, Pewaukee started testing kids not because they had a problem in the building but to make sure students were honoring their pledge to stay drug free while away from school.
 
Courtny Gerrish

Courtny Gerrish

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Courtny Gerrish started at TODAY'S TMJ4 on March 13, 2006. A graduate of Indiana University, Courtny first called Evanston, Illinois home.