Board opts for voluntary testing after ACLU of Virginia and many parents voice opposition to mandatory testingWilliamsburg, VA -In an unexpected turn of events this week, the Williamsburg-James City County School Board rejected a proposal to institute a mandatory random drug testing program for students, in favor of voluntary testing. At their meeting Tuesday evening, school board members voted unanimously to implement a voluntary student drug testing program for students in grades 6-12 beginning with the 2006-07 school year.
The mandatory policy proposed by School Superintendent Gary Mathews would have been the most expansive in the state, requiring all high school students involved in extracurricular activities or who use the school lot to park their cars to be subjected to random drug testing.
“We are pleased the school board has decided not to impose a mandatory random drug testing program,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “The voluntary policy allows families, not the government, to decide when drug testing is appropriate.”
After months of fierce public debate, including a town hall meeting at which the ACLU of Virginia spoke against mandatory drug testing, school board member Mary Ann Maimone surprised those attending Tuesday’s meeting when she offered to make participation in the drug testing program voluntary and open to students in both middle and high schools.
Last month in a letter sent to the Williamsburg-James City County School Board, Willis urged rejection of the proposed mandatory drug testing policy because it violates the privacy rights of students and there is no research indicating that such programs are an effective deterrent to illegal drug use in public schools.
Willis instead recommended that the school board adopt an “aggressive education, identification, and rehabilitation program” aimed at reducing drug use among students.
The Williamsburg-James City County School Board will take final action on the amended policy at its next meeting on April 4.
Contact: Kent Willis, 804/644-8022