VERMILION — Vermilion Schools Superintendent Phil Pempin spoke to a largely empty auditorium Thursday to explain the school board’s proposed drug-testing policy. Just six people attended the meeting, designed to address the community’s questions and concerns.
Read the draft of the policy below.
Pempin said the proposal was also discussed Wednesday night after an athletic meeting, which had a much larger turnout. He said, however, the quick question-and-answer session after the meeting was “not the best way” to address concerns, and those in attendance were invited to the high school Thursday.
Pempin said many people expressed concerns Wednesday night, and some questioned whether random mandatory drug tests would be the best way to deal with Vermilion’s reported drug problem. The school board has said both students and parents have expressed concern about Vermilion students’ drug use. Those who attended Thursday’s meeting expressed little concern about implementing the policy, but some were wary that it would work.
“I am not against or opposed, but I came here to get more informed,” said Jill Smith, a mother of three students.
Smith told board members that testing only students involved in athletics, extracurricular activities or those purchasing parking passes — as outlined in the current draft of the policy — would not curb drug use.
“I think we’re hitting the wrong people,” she said.
Pempin acknowledged Smith’s opinion, but said the board did not have the option to test all students because of legal concerns.
The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken out against the policy, citing studies that show drug testing is ineffective. Christine Link, executive director of the Cleveland chapter of the ACLU, wrote a two-page letter to the school board saying that drug testing all students would be a violation of Fourth Amendment rights, and the school’s attorney has reportedly advised against randomly testing all students.
Pempin said parents may have the option of adding their children to the drug-testing pool, regardless of their involvement in athletics or extracurricular activities, but the board wants to test the current policy first. The policy should include 60 percent of the student body in the testing pool, he said.
Joe Rini, an attendee of the meeting, also expressed concerns with the confidentiality of a student’s medical records.
Under the current proposal, a medical review officer with the drug testing company and a designated official, appointed by the superintendent, would be the only people who would see a student’s test results. According to a draft of the policy, the tests would not become part of a student’s permanent record, and the tests would not be released to law enforcement agencies, except by way of a lawful subpoena.
Rini said the board must be careful of who it picks as the designated official.
“I don’t trust our faculty, and I don’t trust our staff. … Quite honestly, I don’t trust our board,” he said. “None of you … are bound by the secrecy and privacy of medical records.”
Board member Sid Jordan said Rini’s comment was “duly noted” and would be discussed at the board’s meeting Monday but said the school takes a student’s confidentiality seriously.
Kyle Prueter, president of Great Lakes Biomedical, attended the meeting to discuss the procedure and convince the sparse crowd that drug testing would be positive for students.
“It’s going to give kids one more chance to say no,” he said.
Prueter has attended many of the school’s Board of Education meetings and was chosen by the board to implement the drug tests, should the policy move forward.
Pempin said Great Lakes Biomedical has similar prices to other companies but had the “best customer service.”
The cost of testing will be $20 to $54 per student per test, according to Pempin, who provided estimates of the plan Friday. The district would fund the tests, he said, unless a student tested positive and required additional testing.
Prueter said Great Lakes Biomedical would be able to confirm if a student attempted to doctor a sample. He said the company, not school officials, would keep track of a student’s prescription medications.
“What if they’re on anti-depressants of some sort? That doesn’t need to be known about,” he said. “We don’t want to embarrass the kids at all.”
Board President Tim Rini said the draft of the policy is “not set in stone.” Pempin said the board is available to answer questions before its meeting Monday, and the community is welcome to attend.
The meeting will be 7 p.m. in the Vermilion Administrative Office.
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or email@example.com.