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Duluth School Board mulls random drug testing of students

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A study was presented to the Duluth School Board's education committee Tuesday that examines the idea of randomly testing students for drugs, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

If Duluth moves forward with a plan, it would become the first district in the state to allow random drug testing.

The district says it has been researching the idea for the past several months, and a lot of time has been spent studying the random drug testing model that was implemented at Superior High School in Superior, Wisconsin, in 2006.

According to the News Tribune, Duluth's program would be similar to Superior's, which allows for "random suspicion-less" drug testing of students in extra-curricular activities, students registered to park on school grounds and members of the "Pledge Makers" (a group of students who sign a promise not to do drugs).

If the district approves the program, students who participate in the activities, as well as one parent, must give consent while signing up for the activities.

The News Tribune says 35 students were either suspended or expelled for illegal drug use in the district in 2010-11, and that number rose to 64 in 2011-2012.

Superintendent Bill Gronseth says a random drug testing program is "one more way to give our kids an excuse" not to abuse substances.

"I want to get out in front before it’s a huge problem," Gronseth says.

If the Duluth School Board votes in favor the program, it would fully develop a plan later this year, and meet with students and the community next year before putting into place for the 2015-2016 school year.

Also on Tuesday, National Public Radio published results of a nationwide surveythat found the possibility of random drug testing doesn't really discourage students from using alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana, but a positive school environment might.

The study was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Results of the random drug testing study were pulled from the Annenberg Public Policy Center's national survey of youth.

Study author Dan Romer of the Annenberg's Adolescent Communication Institute said he wasn't surprised by the results, according to NPR.

"In a school with a good climate, the kids will respect what the teachers say more," Romer says.

According to NPR, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of random drug testing in schools twice, in 1995 and 2002.

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