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By DAMON LAWRENCE
David Higgins expressed his dismay with the county school system’s drug testing policy for athletes last month.
Now the ACLU is expressing its dismay with the threat of legal action.
“These unsubstantiated searches make a mockery of the civics lessons taught in our classrooms, and should be roundly and readily rejected by parents and school officials alike,” Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU of Tennessee, said in a news release on Wednesday.
According to school board policy, all athletes must be tested during that sport’s season. The policy calls for random testing during the academic year at each Roane County school in grades 7-12.
The 10-member board of education is the only local body that has the power to alter, establish or do away with policies for the school system. Recently elected board member Hugh Johnson, a former coach, said he’s in favor of the drug testing.
“I think that everyone should be clean and free of drugs,” Johnson said.
School board chairman Everett Massengill said the policy was put through a legal gauntlet before it became policy.
“We went with the judges, lawyers and judicial experts,” Massengill said.
Massengill said the policy has been around since the 1990s. However, information on the school system’s Web site says the policy was passed on April 13, 2000.
“The true effect of this policy may never be known because we don’t know how many younger people decided against using drugs because of this,” Massengill said.
Higgins declined comment when contacted at his home Wednesday night.
“I’m referring all questions to the ACLU so we can all stay on the same page here,” Higgins said.
Higgins did have a lot to say when he addressed the board during its monthly meeting in August.
He told board members he was shocked when he learned his daughter was tested. Higgins also questions the merits and legality of the policy.
“I feel pretty passionate about this,” he said.
Massengill said he doesn’t mind taking a look at the policy, but he vowed the board will not be swayed by the ACLU.
“If it needs to be changed, or it needs to be updated, I’m willing to look at that,” Massengill said. “But I don’t think we’ve violated anyone’s rights or anything of that nature.”
In addition to the drug-testing policy for student athletes, Roane County Schools also has a drug testing policy for students.
It states that students shall be notified in writing that they are subject to testing for drugs and alcohol during the school year.