The recent controversy at Northern Valley Regional High School ended with the school voting against random drug testing for students participating in extracurricular activities.
The decision has left district officials and parents wondering how big the drug problem is and whether or not random drug testing even works. Due to a publicly acknowledged drug problem in the community, school administrators had promised parents that regardless of the vote, there would be improved drug education programs for students.
Supporters of random drug testing felt that the drug problem in the district warranted action. Police officers and parents of drug users believe that teen drug use is becoming an epidemic.
Superintendent Christopher Nagy has said that random tests would give students a motivation to stay strong in the face of peer pressure to do drugs. He has also said that many of the district’s students, particularly athletes, have already signed waivers consenting to drug testing.
Parents against the rule said the board was pushing a program that was not wanted in the community. They argued that scientific studies have showed that random testing is ineffective against drug use, and that it is an invasion of privacy. Some opponents also felt the district should not be involved in parenting issues.
Ezra Oliff-Lieberman, a senior from Demarest, who encouraged the board to look into other options.
“There are so many amazing things you can do, and they work because they are about trust, not about creating an environment of fear that’s not conducive to learning,” Oliff-Lieberman said. “We have this amazing group of kids, and on behalf of them, I’m pleading with you guys to trust us and work with us, because we do care, and we are innovative, and we can work on this together to solve this problem through education and collaboration.”
Board President Alice Comer said the board voted random drug testing down to eliminate further discussion of the topic and that school officials would continue discussions on how to solve the drug problem.
Board member Ronald Schwartzman has been against the policy from the beginning.
“The one thing that comes to mind is that the purpose is not just education but what our students take when they leave our school. I think we are losing sight of that with this,” he said. “The random drug testing program pulls the rug out from them. We want to give these kids the ability to make the right decisions and not make them feel the rest of the world is a police state where everything is judged for them. Random drug testing defeats the education we want for our children.”
The proposal was raised last year to help curb teenage drug use. Students whose tests were positive would have been directed to treatment programs with no other penalty. Thirty school districts in New Jersey have employed drug testing for their students.