Not Many Fans of Student Drug Testing Proposal

A proposal by Republican Assemblyman Joel Kleefisch to conduct random drug tests of high school students who take part in extracurricular activities or park vehicles on school property is not being well received.

Kleefisch, husband of Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, said the idea grew out of discussions of a task force he was involved in looking at heroin and opioid abuse. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Kleefisch said about his proposal.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that school districts can administer drug tests to students who participate in after-school activities, and since then, several school districts in the state have began random drug tests, including the De Pere and Crivitz school districts, as well as Kleefisch’s hometown district of Oconomowoc.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin has already voiced its opposition to the proposal on the grounds that it’s intrusive and possibly counterproductive. Gov. Scott Walker has also weighed in, saying there are probably better ideas out there for combating opioid abuse.

The De Pere district has been drug testing students for the past 10 years. A dozen students are randomly tested every week from a pool of students who either have parking passes, participate in extracurricular sports or clubs or from those students who have taken a pledge to remain drug- and alcohol-free.

“I have heard about it and have discussed it with my high school principal, Bob Nickel,” said Sturgeon Bay Superintendent Dan Tjernagel of Kleefisch’s proposal. “In fact, we had discussed it back when there was some press coverage about Crivitz High School instituting random drug testing in fall of 2015. We did not see the need for it here in Sturgeon Bay then, and we don’t see the need for it now.”

He went on to say that while they hate to see any students facing drug or alcohol problems, “Our staff members absolutely work with students in all sorts of challenging situations, including some who may struggle with substance abuse personally or have a family member in the home who does. That being stated, I don’t see random drug testing as something that is necessary or part of a solution to a particular problem.”

Mati Palm-Leis, superintendent of the Washington Island School District, said he was not familiar with Kleefisch’s proposal, but he sees it as just another potential unfunded mandate that distracts from the district’s main purpose of educating citizens.

“Just about all schools have some kind of AODA challenge,” he said. “Given the dynamics of smallness of our school and community, it would be likely we would be aware of a drug issue long before a test was ever given to any one of our 25 high school students. I am doubtful the board would want to direct limited district resources to drug testing unless it was a real problem in the district, which it is not at this time.”

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