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Published: Tuesday, 5/12/2009

Drug test pros, cons debated in Perrysburg

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As the Perrysburg Board of Education prepares to decide whether to test student athletes for drug use, it was clear at Monday night's meeting that the jury is still out in the community.

While some parents expressed broad approval for the proposal, others said they weren't comfortable with it at all.

"I struggle with it just being athletes, because that's selective and not random at all," Beth Kaufman said.

She said parents need to be responsible for raising their children, not the schools.

"We already have DARE. We already have PASA. We already have police," she said. "If those are failing us, then what is this going to do for us?"

Ron Rigney said he didn't know if drug testing would deter drug and alcohol use or not, but he'd like to find out.

"If this is funded by a grant, what do we have to lose by peeking behind the curtain?" he asked. "If we help one kid, just one, it's not wasted."

The Wood County Educational Service Center was awarded a federal grant last year that will pay for drug testing in Perrysburg and five other Wood County school districts for three years.

A committee of staff and community members has spent the last few months crafting a policy for Perrysburg schools intended to discourage student athletes from using drugs and alcohol, to help athletes who are using drugs or alcohol, and to give the athletic department "positive guidelines and disciplinary policies for vio-lations of the drug-free policy."

Superintendent Tom Hosler repeatedly told the group of about 50 gathered in the high school auditorium the policy was not intended to catch kids but to help them by giving them a reason to say no to drugs and alcohol.

Under the proposal, the first time an athlete tested positive for illegal substances, he or she would lose eligibility for a number of games equal to 20 percent of the regular season. The student would then have to undergo a drug assessment and complete any recommendations.

For a second offense, the student would lose eligibility for six months, and for a third violation, a student would be permanently denied participation in athletics.

While the proposed policy lists a number of drugs that could be tested for, Mr. Hosler said the district would not be announcing what it was testing for because it would not want to encourage the use of drugs not on the list.

Drew Griffith, a Perrysburg attorney, said he was "not generally in favor" of the policy.

"Big Brother encroaches in our lives every day as we go forward in ways we realize and in ways we don't realize," he said. "As more rights to our privacy get whittled away, we never get them back."

Keith DeWalt said he's all for testing athletes. "I agree with what you're trying to do," he said. "I don't care if you're infringing on [my son's] privacy because as far as I'm concerned, he doesn't have any privacy."

Athletic Director Ray Pohlman said he deals with student athletes every year who have used drugs or alcohol. He said alcohol is the No. 1 problem followed by abuse of prescription drugs.

While the proposed policy could come before the school board in June or July, board president Valerie Hovland said last night the board has made no decision.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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