Schools Resist Drug Testing; at Least 2 Shun New Guidelines

Article excerpt

Byline: Arlo Wagner, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

At least two Northern Virginia public schools say students will not be tested for drug use, after recently released guidelines for the random testing.

"We are not testing and we have no intentions at this time to change," said Linda Erdos, a spokeswoman for Arlington County public schools.

A Prince William County public school official said yesterday that the district knows about the Virginia law and about the guidelines, but has no plans to submit students to testing.

"We don't test our students, and we don't plan to," said Irene Cromer, a school district spokeswoman.

General Assembly lawmakers unanimously passed the testing legislation, which took effect July 1, 2003.

The assembly then authorized the state's Department of Education to develop guidelines but stated that local districts would decide whether to test students.

The practice of testing students came into the national spotlight in 1995, in part, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Vernonia School District in Oregon to try to stop drug use among students by testing athletes.

Since then, other school districts have attempted to test students to curb or stop drug use.

In Northern Virginia, Falls Church City public school officials are reviewing the state law and guidelines. Alexandria, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Manassas and Manassas Park public school districts did not respond to calls to learn whether they would test students.

Arlene Cundiff, of Virginia's safe schools program, defended the districts, saying the guidelines were released just last month.

She also said districts are not required to tell the state whether they are adopting the testing.

"It's at the discretion of the local school boards," Miss Cundiff said.

The unwillingness of districts to test disappoints at least one anti-drug activist.

"We're hoping [Northern Virginia schools] will adopt drug testing," said Joyce Nalepka, president of Drug Free Kids: America's Challenge.

Miss Nalepka also is former president of the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth, an organization supported by former first lady Nancy Reagan. …