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Random drug testing for certain students will start this fall at Muskego High School

It's the third high school in the area to do random drug testing.

July 21, 2014

Muskego — Random drug testing for athletes and students involved in other after-school activities will start this fall at Muskego High School, making it only the third high school in the metropolitan area to do random drug testing.

Arrowhead and Pewaukee high schools have had random drug testing of athletes and students in clubs for several years.

The Muskego-Norway School Board unanimously approved the random drug testing, and School Board President Rick Petfalski who suggested the testing said, "I'll be surprised if a lot of other schools don't start following suit."

The goal isn't to punish students for getting involved in drugs, officials said.

"It's not something we're putting in place to be punitive by any means," Petfalski said. "Results will not be turned over to law enforcement and there will be no extra penalties from the school itself."

The whole idea is to identify students who are getting involved with drugs so that they can get help, he said.

But at least as important in his view, Petfalski said, is that testing will give students a reasonable out if peers try to push drugs or alcohol on them.

"They can tell their peers and look them in the eye and say, 'No, they randomly drug test,'" he said.

And if students are caught, they will sit out some of the season or activity for a first offense, under the school policy. That alone might head off drug experimentation, said School Board member Brett Hyde.

"I hope that would make them think seriously if it's worth it or not," he said.

One aspect that some parents and students speaking against the plan brought up before the School Board did concern him, Hyde said. That was the argument that testing might make some students stay away from sports or activities — the very things that could help them break the hold of drugs.

"I had some long thoughts about that," Hyde said. But then he decided the testing would help far more students.

In a student/parent survey the district conducted recently, 86 percent of students said testing wouldn't affect their decision to participate in sports or activities. Fourteen percent said it would. About 82 percent of the students were already in sports or co-curricular activities.

Feedback from parents who contacted him ran about 10 in favor to one against, Petfalski estimated. Parents are worried because if their child gets sucked into addiction, they want to know it.

"I don't think anyone ever thinks their kids are abusing drugs," he said. "But some drugs these days, it only takes once to become an addict."

The feedback Petfalski received mirrored the district survey results in which eight out of 10 parents responding supported random drug testing. Students, though, were far less enthusiastic. Not quite half the students responding liked the idea. Almost as many, 39 percent, were neutral.

Roughly 750 students, a majority of the Muskego High School student body, would be eligible for testing by an outside health agency, officials said.

There was some support for testing all students, not just those in after-school activities.

But Petfalski said the courts have held that is not legal.

"That debate was open and closed even before we weighed in on it," he said.

But it would be legal to test students in such activities as athletics, forensics, debate, musical, pep band, student council, AFS, DECCA or Future Business Leaders of America because it is a privilege to take part in them, school officials said.

The tests will analyze urine samples for such substances as alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, opiates including heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and phencyclidine. Performance enhancers could be included as well, Petfalski said.

The tests will be paid for by adding $10 to the fee for each of the activities.

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