October 23, 2004
Students as young as seventh grade in the Paradise Valley Unified School District would face random testing for drugs such as cocaine, Ecstasy and Soma if parents approve the practice.
The district mailed a survey to the homes of 11,000 high school students last week. Starting Monday, parents of middle school students will be given the survey at parent-teacher conferences. The survey asks if parents support drug testing of students who drive to school, random drug testing of all seventh- and eighth-graders, random testing of all high school students and random testing of all students if parents request it.
The governing board will make the final decision next year. The district now does random testing of athletes.
The district decided to survey parents after Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley committed $20,000 to expand its drug testing program.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the health and safety concerns of schools outweigh personal privacy issues and gave schools a broad freedom to test students for drug use.
Only a few districts in the state test students for drugs, including Queen Creek and Show Low.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued districts in several states for infringing on the rights of students by doing drug tests. A January 2004 document " Making Sense of Student Drug Testing," written by the ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance, asserts that testing students for drugs is not effective in deterring student drug use.
Some parents disagree.
"It empowers kids to say no, it gives them an easy answer to their friends," said Susan Presler, mother of two middle school athletes and member of the Phoenix Substance Abuse Prevention Commission.