SAXONBURG (KDKA) — Two-thirds of Knoch High School students will be subject to random drug tests, if the South Butler County School Board adopts a policy proposed by its superintendent, Dr. David Zupsic.
“We’d be proposing a policy that tests students for drugs — students who participate in extracurricular activities or drive to school,” Zupsic told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Friday.
Zupsic says parents want the school district to be pro-active about the drug crisis.
“At Knoch High School, in the past 5 years, we’ve had 31 students who have violated the drug and alcohol policy, but even more than that there’s an alarming increase in Butler County heroin overdose deaths.”
Under the new policy, any student who signs up for sports, band, or any other extracurricular activity, or drives a car to school, will be required to take a drug test at the beginning of the school year, and the cost of that test will be paid for by their parents.
“Those tests are approximately thirty dollars, and we’re going to ask the parents to pay for that initial test,” says Zupsic.
The district will pay for the random tests throughout the year at a cost of about $45,000 — and the test is a standard urinalysis.
“There would be privacy venues set up where students would be using independent boys and girls bathrooms to provide samples,” says the superintendent.
Zupsic says Seneca Valley and Mars are doing this, but he expects more to follow suit.
“Once certain school districts take on these, and publicize through the news media and become aware of the success of these programs, more school districts will do so.”
The superintendent says he doesn’t want to wait until a student dies of an overdose before taking action.
“We’re not here to punish students. We’re here to identify students who need our help and provide them with the support that they need.”
But is this legal?
Can a school district make students take a drug test and have their parents pay for it.
School officials say, under some circumstances it’s perfectly legal.
“Through extracurricular activities or driving to school is considered a privilege, so to exercise that privilege we’re able to implement this drug testing policy,” says Zupsic.
In 1995 and 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld student drug tests when applied to privileges granted by the school, says school solicitor Matthew Hoffman.
“Suspicion-less drug testing of students participating in athletics and other extracurricular activities is constitutional under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” says Hoffman, who represents Seneca Valley School District that has a similar policy.
“There’s also a Pennsylvania supreme court decision which likewise held that such policies can be permissible under the Pennsylvania Constitution.”
Zupsic hopes the school board will approve this policy this spring.
And so far, public feedback has been positive.
Delano: “Have you had any objection at all?”
Zupsic: “Not yet.”