Thursday, June 20, 2019

Rural Nebraska school district, fed up with e-cigarettes, adds nicotine to drug test for extracurricular activities

Google map, adapted
Use of electronic cigarettes among teenagers has skyrocketed in the past few years, and a rural Nebraska school district has instituted a controversial way to fight it: any student in grades 7-12 who wants to participate in extracurricular activities must submit to random nicotine testing, Margaret Reist reports for the Lincoln Journal Star.

That will affect about 60 percent of the 387 students at Fairbury Junior-Senior High, about 50 miles southwest of Lincoln. The district has already had a random drug testing policy for the past two years, so nicotine will simply be added to the list of substances to be tested for. Students and their parents must sign a consent form for the testing in order to participate in extracurricular activities.

The board of Fairbury Public Schools approved the measure last week. "Vaping and smoking in our view is reaching epidemic proportions," Superintendent Stephen Grizzle told Reist. "It’s just a way we can deter kids from potentially being addicted to nicotine." He said adding nicotine to the drug testing panel will cost the district about $900 a year, and said the district is also considering installing sensors in the bathrooms that would detect e-cigarette vapor and notify administrators.

Though teenagers and privacy rights advocates might find it extreme, the new policy appears to be legal, under to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld an Oklahoma school district’s policy of randomly drug testing students who participate in 'competitive' extracurricular activities such as cheerleading and choir," Antonia Farzan reports for The Washington Post. "In 1997, the Supreme Court had determined that testing high school athletes for illegal drugs was constitutional."

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