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Random drug testing still topic of debate

April 1, 2014

Muskego — After listening to residents speak for and against starting random drug testing at Muskego High School, the Muskego-Norway School Board seemed no closer to deciding the issue Monday.

But testing was coming into sharper focus as a tool to help students rather than a way to find and punish drug users.

The board appeared sympathetic to the arguments of Ray Schrank who served nine years on the School Board, four of them as its president. "Addiction is a disease similar to cancer," Schrank said. "When you screen for the disease, you don't punish the person, you treat the person."

Schrank and others feared the board is thinking students with positive drug tests should be kicked out of sports and other after school activities. That could break the only social bonds that would help them stay away from drugs, Schrank said.

But that wouldn't happen, School Board member Rick Petfalski said. The student code says that student athletes or those in after-school activities caught drinking or with drugs would miss some games or weeks of the school activity, but they aren't dropped.

A soccer player, for example, would miss eight games. A student in a year-round activity such as student council would miss five weeks. The suspensions are longer for the second offense. It isn't until the third offense that students are dropped from an activity for a calendar year if they don't get treatment.

"We don't abandon students," Petfalski said.

Random testing could even have the indirect effect of giving athletes a reason to resist peers pushing drugs on them, Petfalski said.

In addition, the schools attempt to assist them and their families to get help.

"I think we all agree that treatment and education is what we want," said School Board member Eric Schroeder.

School Board member Dean Strom said every parent he has spoken with wants drug testing. "They say, 'I want to know if my kid is using drugs.'"

The board decided it needs to discuss the issue more and gather more information. It will likely be the subject of an upcoming board work session.

A Muskego High School graduate who now runs an addict recovery facility in another state wrote to the School Board opposing random drug testing, fearing it would further stigmatize young people with an addiction problem and create an atmosphere of mistrust. He also provided a statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics against random drug testing.

Petfalski said all the academy's concerns are addressed in the program the district is considering. The argument that a climate of distrust and suspicion could be created didn't appear to have much traction with the board.

Random drug testing is regarded as being only a small part of the answer to keeping young people off drugs. But some board members said they haven't heard a convincing argument that it would do any harm.

Testing is viewed as part of a much larger effort involving the city, police, community groups and even businesses. The schools' task force on drugs met for the first time last week.

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