Tuesday, October 15, 2013

School daze

Yesterday, one of my Facebook contacts posted about my local school board and a special meeting, the focus of which would be a proposed random drug testing program for students. Said program was detailed in a 10-page pdf on the school district's web page. As I read it, the smoke tendrils started curling out of my ears. The "draft policy" asked me to commit to the following:

I understand that my son/daughter/ward, when participating in athletics, extracurricular activities and/or receiving a parking permit, may be subjected to initial and random urine drug testing, and if they refuse will not be allowed to practice, participate or park. I have read the consent on the reverse of this form and agree to its terms.

So my kid would have to whiz in a cup in order to join Art Club? Or park at the high school--for which the Brecksville-Broadview Hts. City School District Board deleted busing?


You bet I went to last night's meeting. You can read other local media coverage and see video here and here.

The impetus for this proposal was not an uptick in drug activity in the schools. In fact, when several audience members asked about recent drug activity last night, Board Members had no information about drugs found in the schools or drug usage in the schools. They had no data regarding our local student drug problems at all. And make no mistake, surveillance cameras dot our school hallways and trained drug dogs regularly sniff around them. Lockers are routinely (and preemptively) searched.

The proposal came from four students who did not approach the School Board under their own volition. The group was selected by the Community Awareness and Prevention Association (CAPA) to attend a special drug awareness, prevention and education program over the summer.

In Florida.
"We sent four kids to a national youth leadership initiative training in Florida," said CAPA Coordinator Kelly Lazar at last night's meeting. When the students returned from the trip, Lazar said, they made a presentation in front of CAPA regarding the drug abuse preventation strategies they had learned about. "As they were talking about that and talking about some of their concerns," said Lazar, " ... they were saying that they were concerned that kids were drinking in the park. They were just concerned about their peers."

Here's where it gets interesting.

Lazar continued, "The question came from a CAPA person, 'well if there was one thing you could recommend that you would do--the silver bullet so to speak--what would you recommend? And (the students) said, 'student drug testing.'

"At that point, we said, 'okay.'"

So, let me get this straight: some kids hand-picked by the CAPA board think some other kids might be drinking in a park, and that means that my kid needs to get a drug test in order to join the art club or park at the high school, which is, incidentally, 3.9 miles away from our house.

Superintendent Scot Prebles thought that any testing program would be paid for via fees.

So, let me get this part straight: after you stopped busing for high school kids, forcing an onerous burden on parents who have to figure out transportation for their freshman and sophomore students who can't drive, or buy vehicles and insure their junior- and senior-year teens (approx. $1,000 per year) who can drive, pay for gas and vehicle maintenance and purchase a $100 school parking pass; you're now going to ask us to pay for mandatory drug testing before they can park at the school?

Oh, and nicotine is one of the drugs listed as illicit in the "draft policy."

The board was understandably clobbered with complaints about the proposal last night. Not one parent stood up in support of the program. And while the Board conceded that any action is months and months away, they still may consider a drug testing program.

To any parents or taxpayers in the Brecksville Broadview Heights School District that have an opinion on this matter, I urge you to share it with the Board via this link.

Rant over.

*  *  *


lucy beckett 1935 said...

Erin, while I no longer have kids in that, or any other, school district, I am outraged by this. I sincerely hope that your rant isn't over; it needs to be delivered at the next school board meeting, and the one after that, etc.!! I am also appalled by the random checking of student lockers...how did that one get by you? With dogs sniffing around and whatever else they are doing there, I would think that would be more than enough!

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks for dropping in and commenting, Lucy. Isn't this galling?

789Carrie said...

Excellent points, Erin. Many aspects of the proposed policy are detrimental including assumed guilt. An adult who doesn't want his or her child tested can refuse the test and the child will be considered a drug user and placed into a redirection program through an outside agency just as if the child had tested positive (who pays for this is is not outlined in the document). No one on the board appears to have considered whether treating the innocent as guilty will encourage them to use drugs.

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks, Carrie.

Also, I couldn't believe that the news outlets didn't mention anything about the parking--that portion of the proposal would impact a large percentage of the jr. and sr. classes.

Al The Retired Army Guy said...


For once, we agree. This is just plain stupid. You bring drugs into school, weapons, anything else illegal and you get caught? You get suspended, parking privileges taken away, kicked out of extracurricular activities. That's how it was when I went to high school, anyway. Random drug testing, while useful in other settings doesn't necessarily translate here. Kids are going to do stupid things, and experimenting with drugs is one of them. Punishing all that don't with random drug testing isn't going to change that.


P.S. I took butchered a whole hog in the Italian style the other day. Awesomeness.

Anonymous said...

In Florida.

Of course it's Florida.

Wow. Lots to process in that pdf. I would encourage any parents of school-age kids to take a peek at that.

Two cents, ask for change if you thinks* it's appropriate:

-I would want to know where the Board adopted their boilerplate from.

-I would want to know why CARA sent the kids to this particular camp or program.

-I would want to know if the camp or program has any corporate sponsors.

-I would want to know more about any sponsoring or sanctioning body behind CARA.

-I would want to know, in DETAIL, the board's projection of the financial impact of the program on any other activities, as they seem to intend paying for the program with fees collected for the student's activities.

-I would like to hear feedback from the collective bargaining units representing the faculty and staff.

-I would demand-not want-demand to know to what degree the Board members and school administrators will be subject to the same sort of testing.

-I would insist on some mechanism by which the four students involved can tell a disinterested third party exactly how this item came to be proposed. No, I would not trust the fucking school board. If they told me they didn't trust my kid why the fuck should I trust them?

-I would want to know if the Board is aware of the fact that the Governor of Florida has a personal financial interest in the drug screening industry and whether or not the camp's location in Florida is/was merely a coincidence.

Barb and I have been fortunate, and blessed, in our experience with schooling our boys. Although we lived in Cleveland until '05, we only had to interact with the Cleveland schools for a total of three school years for one boy, and then we were in Stow and Brooklyn, which are both superlative systems. I certainly wish for the best for you and yours.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, the (*) above was to indicate that that was deliberate and not a typo.

And beautifully OFF-TOPIC: E-mail from the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives goes to spam.

Smart computers, eh?


Anonymous said...

If Al agrees with Erin who am I to argue.

BTW...I ate at an Italian restaurant called Antonio's in Nashville Sunday night and had some sort of Cod thing with shrimp bisque in a bread bowl and an insalata. I don't know why they don't just say salad. My date was interested in the Veal but the waiter couldn't tell her if it had been raised humanely or in a box so she went with some sort of meatless dish. Now given that the nurtured and unnurtured baby cow ends up dead I'm not sure why the manner of their raising matters but there it is. We both enjoyed the meal though. As best as I can recall no one there was smoking dope nor did they ask if we were clean before we were served.


Erin O'Brien said...

From a mass email authored by Scot Prebles, BBHCSD Superintendent regarding the meeting and proposal:

"... The Board entered into discussion, which included public participation, regarding a proposed student random drug testing policy brought to the Board by a community/school affiliated support group called Community Awareness and Prevention Association (CAPA).

During the Board's discussion, audience participants provided feedback on their thoughts and opinions of such a concept; each recorded and valued. This type of engagement is necessary and appreciated by me as it has impact on the academic needs and safety of our students. No official action occurred by the Board on this topic Monday evening.

Though this subject is extremely important and was considered by Members of the Board during the meeting, no further action on this item is anticipated in the near future. And, I assure you, if the subject becomes a future prioritized item for the Board, a high level of student, parent and community input will be sought by me.

In the mean time, my most important short term agenda item is Issue 77 which is on the November 5, 2013 ballot. Issue 77 is a renewal levy which represents approximately 11% of our general operating funds, was originally passed in 2004, will not raise homeowner taxes and is essential to protect "all" existing school programs and services. I hope you too share this as a priority."