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Board of Ed goes slowly on drug testing By: George Moore, Staff
09/12/2007WALLINGFORD -- Board of Education board members want to proceed with caution on a proposal to test students in extracurricular programs for drugs.

They have asked the administration to answer questions about the policy proposed by Democrat Democrat Nicholas Economopoulos.

The idea behind the proposal is that the school district could revoke a student's privilege to be in an extracurricular program if he or she is found to have used drugs. It would be a powerful way to deter drug abuse among young people, Economopoulos said.

The idea has not received overt support from other board members, but did generate many questions at an Instructional Committee meeting Monday, board members said.

Republican Thomas Laffin, vice chairman of the committee, said Tuesday that he wants the administration to determine the financial cost of a drug-testing policy and what kind of testing methods could be used.

While it is too early to form an opinion on the proposal, Laffin said, it is important that the school district not replace the role of parents.

"It's their families' and it's their friends' responsibility to talk with them and recognize their symptoms," he said, "and anything we can do to help guide them with the health programs is a bonus."

Chairman Thomas Hennessey, also a Republican, said the board must go on a fact-finding mission.

As the board explores the issue, he said, the district can still rely on the health curriculum as a way to combat student drug abuse.

The district, he said, had been looking at revamping its health curriculum since before the drug-testing concept was raised. Drug education efforts, he said, also should be focused on parents.

"I think we owe (parents) an update as to drugs in our society, as to what they could be looking for," he said.
Democrat John Cei Jr. said he wants to know what the district would be able to do if it found that a student had been using drugs. Cei said the district should also study similar programs elsewhere.

"I think we should look around to see what others have doing to see what are the most effective policies," he said.
Cei requested that school principals weigh in on the issue, since they interact with students daily.

Republican Karen Hlavac, chairwoman of the Instructional Committee, said she wants the administration to determine which substances the tests would check for, and whether such tests could violate medical privacy laws. With such a program in place, she said, a student might have disclose his or her use of a prescription drug.

Board members considering Economopoulos' proposal said they simply want more information, but Economopoulos said his idea was not given a warm reception Monday night.

"I was shivering up there," he said. "I don't know if I was cold because of the air conditioning or the reception."

© 2007