Despite ruling, most Oklahoma school districts don't drug test

Monday, August 23rd 2004, 10:26 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Most of the state's largest school districts do not give drug tests to students, although the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling two years ago permitting the Tecumseh School District to give these tests to students involved in extracurricular activities.

Of the state's top 10 districts, only two have drug-testing policies, The Oklahoman reported Monday. Broken Arrow tests athletes and voluntary members of the Drug Free Youth organization. But Union Schools only tests members of Drug Free Youth.

High costs discourage some districts from embracing student drug testing.

Cost was definitely a factor when Tulsa, the state's largest district, nixed the possibility of student drug testing a couple of years ago, district spokesman John Hamill said.

``You're talking about 43,000 students,'' he said.

Superintendent Bob Neel said it cost Guymon, which has about 2,500 students, about $4,500 a year for drug tests.

Drumright School District gets donations from local businesses and community groups to keep its policy funded. Other districts charge their students between $5 and $20 to administer drug tests. Because the tests are given to students who voluntarily participate in school activities, the fees are allowed, officials said.

Other districts with drug-testing policies include Ada, Roff, Jenks, Macomb, Duncan and Blanchard. Yukon may join the ranks in the fall.

After the drug-related death of a 15-year-old and drug overdose of an 18-year-old in May, Yukon school officials began hosting community meetings to determine whether to test students involved in school activities.

Yukon High School sophomore Seth Meier said random drug tests might make a dent in what he sees as a significant drug problem.

``It'll give kids a good reason to say 'no,''' Meier, 16, said. ``It could be you, any time, who gets tested. So in the back of their minds, that's what they're thinking.''

Tecumseh's six-year-old drug-testing policy is based on the premise that drug testing allows students the opportunity to say no without ridicule from their peers.

Testing those students who participate in after-school activities won't solve drug problems, said Micheal Salem, a Norman attorney who argued against student drug testing in the Tecumseh case on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union.

``Drug testing based on random testing is nothing more than a search without probable cause or a reasonable suspicion,'' Salem said.

When schools administer drug tests to students they suspect are using drugs, ``at least you're targeting the problem,'' he said.

Guymon Public Schools two years ago ended a three-year-old student drug-testing policy because it was not an effective deterrent against drug use, officials said.

``We felt like we weren't reaching some of the kids we needed to,'' Superintendent Neel said.