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Muskego-Norway district tests ideas on drug-use detection at high school

Officials consider random testing similar to two other districts

March 3, 2014

Muskego — Muskego High School could join the list of area schools doing random drug tests.

Drug tests of students are already performed at Pewaukee and Arrowhead high schools, and the Muskego-Norway School Board last week reviewed those schools' procedures as they apply to athletes, club members and co-curricular activity participants, and those students with school parking permits.

While random tests of those students have been found constitutional, testing throughout the student body is believed to be unable to withstand a constitutional challenge.

A tentative board discussion of the issue has been scheduled for March 31.

Growing concern

The issue of drugs is especially important in the Muskego-Norway district, where 40 people packed a School Board meeting in August, calling for stronger measures to fight drug use. Some even volunteered to speak to classes.

Last week's discussion of drug testing came about at the request of board member Rick Petfalski.

"I feel we need to do more than we are to ensure that students don't feel safe using or bringing drugs and alcohol into our school environment," Petfalski said. "We need to send a message that says, 'If you use drugs and alcohol while attending Muskego High School, then you will not enjoy the privileges of participating in school activities.'"

All schools have drug and alcohol problems and Muskego is no different, he said.

"While I don't feel our problem is any more prevalent than any other Waukesha County school, it's not any better either. I want this to be another area where we try to be the district of choice by being more proactive (about) teenage drug and alcohol use," Petfalski said.

Other schools' approach

Scott Kugi, district activities coordinator, explained to Muskego board members how the Pewaukee and Arrowhead district conducts limited drug testing.

Both districts perform random testing 10 times a year. Pewaukee tests 13 randomly selected students in sports and other co-curricular activities each time. Arrowhead tests 20 students who are in co-curricular activities or who have school parking permits, Kugi said.

The tests, which cost $40 each, can detect heroin, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, phencyclidine (or PCP), opiates, alcohol and nicotine.

A positive test at Pewaukee and Arrowhead means that the student must drop out of sports or co-curricular activities. In the case of Arrowhead it also means losing parking privileges, "which is a big deal for some of them," Kugi said.

Limits in testing

Aside from random testing, students suspected of using drugs or alcohol could also be tested, Kugi said, but only if drug use is evident — similar to a situation in which the school conducts a breath test on a student coming to a dance smelling of alcohol.

However, students could not be singled out for testing if the only basis for suspicion were postings on social media or rumors, said Muskego High School Principal Ryan Oertel.

School Board President Jim Schaefer asked what would happen if coaches overheard conversations or saw something that indicated possible drug use.

Kugi responded that coaches don't have the discretion to handle situations like that on their own.

"I believe that if our coaches ever caught wind of that, they would be in my office," Kugi said.

More will be known about how Pewaukee and Arrowhead handle drug testing by the time the March 31 meeting discussion begins, officials said.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: discussion on whether to institute random drug testing at Muskego High School

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. March 31

WHERE: Educational Services Center, W18763 Woods Road

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