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2 School Districts Study Voluntary Drug Tests

November 02, 1986|SANDRA CROCKETT | Times Staff Writer

Mark Linnartz, an 18-year-old senior at Rowland Heights High School, is concerned that many of his classmates come to school under the influence of drugs and use that as an excuse when they flunk a test.

Michelle Rodriguez, a 16-year-old Rowland Heights High sophomore, complained that marijuana is such a common sight around the school and at parties that "it's just like a cigarette."

Michelle Miller, a 17-year-old senior at Nogales High School in La Puente, does not go to parties anymore because she dislikes being around drug users.

In an effort to fight drug abuse, the Rowland Unified and Baldwin Park Unified school districts are considering voluntary drug testing programs at their high schools similar to the one already implemented at Arcadia High School.

The programs would be offered at Nogales and Rowland Heights high schools in the Rowland district and at Baldwin Park and Vista high schools in the Baldwin district.

"If there is a school principal anywhere who says they don't have a drug problem, they are either lying or very naive," said Rowland Heights High School Principal Thomas Aney.

Officials have come to that same conclusion for high schools in Huntington Beach, Fallbrook, Corona, San Diego, Wilmington and Colton, which have begun or will begin voluntary testing this year.

'Reason to Say No'

"Students need a reason to say no," said Donald Vail, Baldwin Park High School principal. "Peer pressure is probably the biggest reason kids get involved with drugs."

Dean Anderson, president of the Rowland school board, said his school system is studying whether voluntary testing should be started, for athletes only, in the system's two high schools.

"Right now I don't think we have a real big problem," he said. But testing might prevent drug abuse from getting worse, he added.

A Baldwin Park district administrator said a voluntary testing program for students participating in such extracurricular activities as sports, the band or the pep squad at its two high schools is expected to start in April.

Desire for Clean Campus

"I am sure that the majority of our students are concerned about drugs and want to see a clean campus," said Trifone Pagone, director of drug programs for Baldwin Park.

Arcadia High School started a voluntary drug testing program for athletes and student government leaders at the beginning of the school year.

Steve Powell, an assistant principal at Arcadia, said most students and parents support the testing. Powell refused to say how many students have volunteered.

"We are not publicizing that right now," he said. "There will be a report out the first part of February."

Uncertain Legality

Drug testing at Arcadia is conducted on a voluntary basis because school officials said the legality of mandatory testing in high schools has not yet been established.

If a student tests positive, the results are released to the parents. School officials are not notified. The students are encouraged to seek treatment.

Aney readily admits that there is a drug and alcohol problem on the Rowland Heights campus but wondered if the proposed voluntary program is the answer.

"It could bring about an awareness," he said, "but I am not really sold on the voluntary drug testing."

Aney said he would like to see more emphasis placed on education.

Dangers of Drugs

Recently about 20 Rowland Heights High students gathered in the library to discuss classmates who are using marijuana, cocaine and alcohol. They voiced concern that some of their classmates do not care about the negative effects on their health.

"They don't care what may happen 20 years from now," one student said.

Although drugs are a problem, the students agreed that alcohol is more widely abused.

"Alcohol is just more accessible," said Mark Linnartz. "People come to school and say, 'Well, I've had six hangovers this week.' Then somebody else will say 'I've had seven.' You could say it is like a status thing."

Sales of Marijuana

Michelle Rodriguez was among the students who said they have seen marijuana being sold on school grounds.

"Only the really stupid people are getting caught," she said.

Not every student in the Rowland Heights district thinks there is a drug problem.

"Most dudes don't have anything to worry about because they don't take drugs," said Victor Everett, 17, who attends Nogales. Everett said he has seen people become dizzy from drinking alcohol but doesn't see the problem as serious "because nobody has passed out."

Problem of Alcohol

But school officials said that alcohol is a problem for some students.

The drug tests "will pick up very accurately a person who is a chronic alcohol abuser to the point of being an alcoholic," said Arcadia's Powell. "For the person who drinks one or two beers on a Saturday night, it will be out of their system by Monday" when the tests are conducted.

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