Guidelines

I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.








Sunday, December 19, 2010

Escambia County Drug Testing Policy--An Email of Concern

I received the below email recently in reference to the district's proposed random drug testing policy.  My answer is below:



>>> XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 12/17/10 2:49 PM >>>

Dear Mr. Bergosh,

I recently learned about the Escambia County School Board's new proposal for student drug testing, and it alarms me. According to an article on NorthEscambia.com (http://www.northescambia.com/?p=38038), the School Board wishes to impose random drug testing on all students who park on school grounds.
According to the aforementioned article, if a student were to fail the random drug test, they would be "required to take a District-approved drug assessment and rehabilitation program." In addition to this rehabilitation program, they would also "be subject to additional random drug tests, and they would remain on probation for the rest of their school years." This “probation” is described as including “additional random drug tests.”
I have located the Supreme Court ruling on the case of The Board of Education... of Pottawatomie County vs. Earls. In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas states that "The Policy clearly requires that test results be kept in confidential files separate from a student’s other records and released to school personnel only on a “need to know” basis. Moreover, the test results are not turned over to any law enforcement authority. Nor do the test results lead to the imposition of discipline or have any academic consequences. Rather, the only consequence of a failed drug test is to limit the student’s privilege of participating in extracurricular activities." (http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/01-332.ZS.html).
The proposal that was made to the school board, based upon Justice Thomas's opinion, is unconstitutional. It would, in fact, have greater consequences than the limiting of extracurricular activities.
Justice Thomas’s opinion also states that "students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities voluntarily subject themselves to many of the same intrusions on their privacy as do athletes." It is this supposed lack of the expectation of privacy upon which the Court's decision is formed. The same lack of the expectation of privacy is not present in students who park on school grounds. Because of this, the proposed policy goes beyond far beyond the drug testing permissions granted by Board vs. Earls.
Though I do agree that students should make responsible choices when it comes to their futures, the doctrine of in loco parentis does not apply in cases where a student’s rights to privacy and reasonable search are infringed.
As revered statesman and author Thomas Paine once said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” It is my view that the only thing worse than not supporting liberty is actively undermining it. Since your students are, in fact, American citizens, this policy is a violation of their rights and an attack on their freedom.
Mutual respect, especially of natural rights, between faculty and students is the only way to improve our educational system. Our education system is, in turn, the only way to improve our country and our world.
Sincerely,

XXXXXXXXXXXX

 
My Response:
 
XXXXXXXXXXXX,


Thanks for sending your letter of concern. I appreciate the fact that you have cited some sources to support your arguments in opposition to this proposed policy.
Unfortunately, I disagree with your opinion and I am strongly in support of this random testing policy as it is being contemplated.

A couple of thoughts for you to consider:

--Currently, many districts around Florida already test students athletes (Santa Rosa County among them), and these practices have withstood legal challenges.

--Currently, districts around the nation already test students who wish to participate in athletics and extra-curricular activities, and these policies have been tested in courts around the USA.

XXXXXXX, the Escambia County policy is a work in progress, and I believe the district is on the right track; at the recent board meeting where this was discussed in great detail, I heard support from all of my fellow members of the Board of Education on this policy.

This plan was developed by a broad committee of education stakeholders, including-- the district's attorney, district staff, parents, administrators, and members of the public.

This policy is not meant to be punitive, but rather this policy will ensure safety of all students and will help students who make poor choices get counseling and assistance--And all records relating to test results will be kept confidential-that is part of the plan.

A Watershed moment occurred in May of this year when I essentially "called out" district staff to do more on the growing drug problem in our schools--and I'm extremely pleased with how District staff is responding.

On a personal note-I have three kids in these schools, and I want them to go to schools that are drug-free.

All district parents deserve this, and this is currently my biggest priority.

With Best Regards,

Jeff Bergosh



Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board, Dist. 1

850-469-6147
850-469-6147
http://www.jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com/
jbergosh@escambia.k12.fl.us

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