LTE: Drug testing succeeds in O'side
Monday, March 6, 2006
The editors of the North County Times have come down heavily
in opposition to randomly testing high school students for
drugs. The NCT seems to believe that schools have no
business drug-testing students who engage in extracurricular
activities. A number of letter writers have agreed.
However, recent dialogue has not included mention of the
success of a similar program in the Oceanside Unified School
District. The NCT seems focused solely on its perceptions of
the rights of those who might be tested. Here's the rest of
First, any student who possesses, uses, provides drugs or is
under the influence of drugs on a school campus or during
any school activity is violating state law. The consequences
may include expulsion from school for up to a year. By law,
schools are to be free of drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Second, the safety of students at school or school
activities should be the highest priority of school
districts. In 1997, the Oceanside Unified Board of Education
recognized that student athletes under the influence of
drugs may endanger themselves or others. A mandatory, random
drug-testing program for student athletes was established.
Activities such as competitive athletics, especially contact
sports, carry a higher risk to student safety than other
Participation in athletics is not mandatory. Students must
volunteer to become student athletes and agree to abide by
rules that include abstaining from using drugs. Parents and
students must also consent to a physical examination and
random drug-testing of the athlete.
Students who are under the influence of drugs while playing
a sport are a danger to themselves, but they are also
putting their teammates and members of the opposing team at
risk. All players and their parents are entitled to a
reasonable expectation of safety on the field or court.
Athletics and cheerleading are rigorous activities that make
great demands of players' minds and bodies and require good
judgment. The risk of injury in sports is high enough
without subjecting athletes to dangers stemming from a
player's drug-impaired judgment on the field.
Third, the drug-testing program is not punitive. If a
student tests positive for drugs, the parents of the student
are notified, the student is benched from competing, and the
student is referred to drug counseling and intervention. In
this voluntary program, students are not dropped from the
team or expelled if they test positive. Parents and athletes
alike have expressed their appreciation for this approach to
keeping students safe.
This voluntary, random drug-testing program of athletes and
cheerleaders in Oceanside Unified was developed by our
dedicated, professional teaching and coaching staff. It has
been in operation for nine years and will continue until
decided otherwise by the Board of Education or by a court
As for some readers' suggestions that we drug-test teachers,
superintendents and school officials, I agree. In fact, all
are drug-tested before being hired.
Being drug-free is a condition of employment with the
district, and employees can be tested at any time.
Kenneth A. Noonan is superintendent of the Oceanside
Unified School District and vice president of the California
State Board of Education.