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Fallbrook School OKs Voluntary Drug Tests

Times Staff Writer

Turning to unconventional tactics in an uphill battle against a persistent student drug problem, trustees of the Fallbrook Unified High School District on Monday night approved a voluntary drug testing program for athletes.

Board members, alarmed by reports that adolescent drug use is on the rise in this sleepy community, voted unanimously to have the testing program operating before summer.

“Illegal drugs have become a very significant undercurrent of destruction in our society,” board President Wayne Miller said.

“I applaud . . . the board for going forward on this.”

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Although hopeful that the testing system will at least make a dent in the growing popularity of drugs among Fallbrook youths, district officials concede that the program is not the answer for everyone.

“For those who are serious users whose parents have just given up on them, I don’t think this will do the trick,” said Assistant Principal Jim Hutcherson.

“But I believe the kid who is an occasional user, who drinks a lot at parties, will really benefit.”

The board’s unanimous action makes Fallbrook one of only a handful of high schools in Southern California to embrace drug testing as a tool in the war against adolescent drug use. Coronado High School, which adopted the program a few months ago, is the only other San Diego County campus engaged in testing.

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Pioneered last fall by Edison High School in Huntington Beach, the voluntary screening program is intended to provide students with a defense against the peer pressure that officials say pushes many of them to drink and use drugs.

Fallbrook administrators predict that students enrolled in the program will refuse offers of drugs out of fear that they could be tested the following day. That fear provides them with a ready-made excuse to counter pressure from friends peddling drugs and alcohol, officials say.

“That excuse, the fact that they might get busted, is an acceptable one to their teammates, so kids who say no to drugs under these circumstances won’t be hassled,” said Tom Pack, athletic director and football coach at the 1,871-student Fallbrook campus.

According to administrators, students will enroll in the program for several reasons. Parental pressure is likely to be a leading motivator, but Principal Henry Woessner predicted that some students will join willingly “to prove they’re clean.”

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If those who do volunteer include team captains and campus leaders, they in turn may set an example for other students to follow. At Edison High School, for example, some athletes who passed the drug test have proudly posted their negative results in the locker room, encouraging teammates to sign up. Students from neighboring schools have even asked to be included in Edison’s program.

The chronic drug abusers, those in greatest need of help, may also have a reason to volunteer for testing, Fallbrook officials speculate. Tim Oder, a history teacher and the campus track coach, theorizes that the program may provide “kids who are crying out for help” with a convenient avenue to reveal their problem and obtain help.

Under the confidential program, which school officials ultimately hope to offer to all students, athletes who volunteer for testing submit their names to a pool, from which five names are drawn randomly each week. Those selected report within a day for a urine test that screens for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and assorted other street drugs.

If the results are negative, a student’s name is returned to the pool and may be pulled again at any time. If drugs are detected, a local doctor contacts the family and recommends counseling. No punitive action is taken against adolescents who test positive for drugs.

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Reaction to the proposal among Fallbrook student athletes has been mixed, but most of those interviewed said they would volunteer for testing if pressured by their parents. Some students said they questioned the accuracy of the tests, while others said they resented being asked to give a urine sample to prove they are not drug users.

Parents, meanwhile, had lobbied the district for stronger measures, such as a mandatory drug test for all students.


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