By: Elizabeth Patterson
JACKSON, Tenn. (UTC/AP) — Humboldt High School has started randomly drug testing students involved in athletics following a new state law that allowed schools to randomly test students in voluntary extracurricular activities.
The testing began Thursday after student athletes and parents were required sign letters allowing the testing in order to participate in athletic programs like cheerleading and football.
Principal Arthur Moss told The Jackson Sun that testing will occur every other month to give students a way to counter peer pressure and to ensure athletes are drug free.
“This is to change the perception that all our athletes are on drugs,” Moss said.
The first round of testing included 10 students who were randomly selected through a numbering process, he said. School officials plan to expand the program to include all extracurricular activities once a structure is in place to test a larger group of students.
Although drug testing in Tennessee schools is not new, random testing for students involved in extracurricular activities was permitted under an amendment passed in June.
Rich Haglund, general counsel for the State Board of Education, said prior to that amendment, Tennessee law only allowed students to be tested based on reasonable suspicion.
Steve Bayko, superintendent of Humboldt City Schools, said the testing is not harmful and refusal to participate in the testing would prohibit students from taking part in athletics.
“There’s no requirement that any student has the right to extracurricular activities,” Bayko said.
Ja’Lisa Smith, a Humboldt High student, said she signed the authorization form for drug testing to be on the volleyball team and supports the program.
“I think it is great because drugs could affect how (student athletes) play,” Smith said. “They should have been doing it a long time ago.”
However, Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said her group lobbied against the amendment because the organization believes it infringes on children’s rights.
“While we are concerned with students using drugs, we do not believe that random drug testing of students is the solution,” Weinberg said. “In fact random drug testing in school has proven to be ineffective in deterring drug use among young people.”
Weinberg said there’s a potential for inaccurate results from urine sampling. To eliminate tampering with the samples, a witness would have to observe the student at all times during testing, she said.
“It’s important to remember the random testing is not based on probable cause or even reasonable suspicion and challenges what young people learn in their civics classes,” she said.
She encouraged parents with concerns about Humboldt’s testing program to contact the ACLU.
Information from: The Jackson Sun, http://www.jacksonsun.com
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.