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Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

High school to test for students’ weekend drinking

January 31, 2007

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— Some teenagers who drink over the weekend could be in big trouble come Monday morning: A New Jersey school district plans to institute random urine tests capable of detecting whether alcohol was consumed up to 80 hours earlier.

Pequannock Township High, with about 800 students, said it will begin administering the tests Monday.

"This is a major issue for America," School Superintendent Larrie Reynolds said Tuesday. "There are more kids that die each year in alcohol-related traffic deaths than there are soldiers who have died in Iraq. The numbers are staggering."

At least one other New Jersey high school, in Middletown, employs the EtG test, which screens for ethyl glucuronide, a substance produced by the body when it metabolizes alcohol.

Pequannock teenagers who participate in sports or other extracurricular activities, or drive to school, already are tested for illegal drugs under a 2005 program prompted by the heroin overdose of a student.

Students who test positive for alcohol will not be kicked off teams or barred from extracurricular activities. Instead they will receive counseling and their parents will be notified, Reynolds said.

"That's going to give our kids riding in the back seat of someone's car a very powerful reason to say no," he said.

Drug tests, similarly, can detect drug use that occurred days earlier.

The new test worries civil-liberties advocates and others who oppose school drug testing as an invasion of privacy.

"Medical care and treatment are issues between parents and children," said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

They also say that common household products such as mouthwash can produce a positive test result.

But Reynolds said that the test has been recalibrated so that for students to test positive, they generally would have to consume one or two alcoholic drinks.

The EtG test costs about $20, Reynolds said. The school's overall testing program is funded by a three-year, $120,000 federal grant.

"No one's really taking it seriously. If you want to go to a party, you're still going to go to a party," senior Matt Huber said.

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