Parents take issue with school drug test policy

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – In November 2010, after caught skipping school, a Monacan High School sophomore boy was told to take a drug test. His parents were called to campus and that day decided not to have their son drug tested. The sophomore was automatically suspended for two weeks.

Chris and Rhea George say their son was punished for their decision and are now fighting Chesterfield County Public Schools drug testing policy.

Chesterfield County Public School spokesman Shawn Smith says for 20 years, the school system has required students be drug tested if there's reasonable suspicion. It's student policy and at the start of each school year parents sign the policy, agreeing to the terms.

In the paper trail that covered their kitchen table, the George's said there was no physical proof the sophomore boy was on drugs or took drugs the day before Thanksgiving break. That Tuesday, the George's said their son and six others skipped school and spent the day at a nearby playground. The couple said it's where a school police officer discovered the teens.

"The officer, when they approached the kids, smelled marijuana smoke," said Rhea George.

"And the officer that did pick them up said there was no evidence that he saw of any drug use," said husband Chris George.

But the decades old Chesterfield school policy doesn't require physical evidence for a drug test. According to the Standards for Student Conduct, a drug test is required after "reasonable suspicion" like: "bloodshot eyes, staggering, odor, agitation, or excessive tardiness." Because of privacy issues, spokesman Shawn Smith said the school can't comment on the incident "even if the information provided to NBC12 is incomplete or inaccurate."

At up to $45 a pop, over the last two years Chesterfield schools has tested 429 students, totaling up to $19,300 of your money. The school system couldn't tell us the results because it requires going into student records.

"The school system wasn't interested in working with us. They just kept citing policy," said Rhea George.

"The entire attitude was if we ask your child to take a drug test for any reason you have no right to ask us why," said Chris George.

They signed off on the test, but didn't follow through when they found out they would not get the results. Their son was automatically suspended: two days for skipping school, 10 days for refusing the test.

The family immediately researched their options and set up a meeting the following school day to appeal the decision.

"At that time we were basically told that it would not be overturned and it could not be overturned because if he overturned it then no kid would ever agree to take a drug test," explained Chris George.

The George's eventually paid for their son to be tested. The results were negative. His suspension was cut in half. But Rhea and Chris George want the punishment taken off his record and the policy re-evaluated.

Henrico County Public Schools and Richmond Public Schools do not pay or require students to take a drug test.

Each school system handles drug issues on a case-by-case basis and includes parents in determining the consequences.

The Chesterfield school system says it continually evaluates all policies, but a spokesman could not tell NBC12 when or if the drug testing policy would be reviewed by the school board.

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