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Parents sign Sandwich drug testing consent ‘under duress’

Jenny Decker shows off dress she will be wearing be going her high school's Homecoming dance she can now attend

Jenny Decker shows off the dress she will be wearing be going at her high school's Homecoming dance she can now attend after her parents, Barb and Brian Decker (background), agreed to sign, under deress, the Sandwich School District's new drug policy on Wednesday, September 19, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 24, 2012 6:21AM

Her friends had been chattering about Homecoming for weeks. But it wasn’t until Wednesday that Jenny Decker knew she’d get to wear the black and brown party dress she bought for that first big high school dance.

The Sandwich High School freshman had reluctantly accepted the fact she’d not be standing on the dance floor Saturday because she chose to stand on principle instead.

On Monday she went before the Sandwich School Board to beg them to let her attend “my first homecoming” — despite the fact her parents refused to sign the new school district consent form allowing for random drug testing.

Jenny even told the board she’d sign the paper herself. “I’ve not done anything wrong,” she told board members. “Please let me go to Homecoming.”

Still, as much as she wanted to attend, Jenny supported her parents’ decision, even if it meant she couldn’t take part in extracurricular activities, including sports, clubs and dances.

But oh, how she wanted to be with her friends for all the weekend fun.

Finally, by mid-week, the Deckers, after contacting an attorney, reached a compromise. They would sign the consent form so Jenny could attend Homecoming. But they made it clear on the paper they were doing so “under duress.”

Brian and Barb Decker say they are not necessarily opposed to random drug testing for students, which has been in place in the neighboring Plano School District for a few years. They just feel the new procedures have some fundamental flaws they can’t support. While they believe the policy is discriminatory in keeping kids from activities paid for with district money, the biggest sticking point is the potential for a student to be forced to give a second urine sample while an adult is observing, if the first test proves to be adulterated.

“That part is not only extremely invasive,” said Brian Decker, “it is highly questionable in its legality because it involves a minor child.”

Jenny’s parents also question the number of people receiving the results. Testing will be done at Valley West Community Hospital in Sandwich, which will collect urine specimens at the schools. The policy states that under HIPPA law, results will only be shared with the medical review officer, parent or guardian and the school district’s designated representative. Yet, it goes on to read the information will go to the superintendent, principal, assistant principal and athletic director who would then inform the coach or program director.

“I’d hate to see who would know if they didn’t keep it confidential,” Brian Decker said.

Brian Decker, who works with the Federal Aviation Administration and says he’s written a drug testing manual for his company, is also uncomfortable with the fact false positives and prescription drugs are not addressed.

“The FAA is all about policy ... it’s got to read right,” he said. “They (school officials) are asking for my signature on something important. But I need more data before I will sign willingly.”

Jenny’s parents know they are in the minority. Sandwich High School Principal Mitch Nystedt said over 90 percent of students returned signed forms, and he expects that number to increase as parents get used to it.

Nystedt says this policy — six high school students and three middle-schoolers will be selected randomly for testing each month — was carefully thought out by administrators, board members, parents and students. In fact, he said, it was a student leader who convinced him this could help thwart “an uptick” in drug use at the high school.

“He told me if this helps just one of my friends say no (to drugs), then it will be worth it,” the principal said.

Nystedt insisted there would be no observed urine samples taken without consulting both parents and student, who would also be brought in to determine whether medication could be the culprit of a positive test. He also assured confidentiality of medical data. School personnel not covered under HIPPA, he said, would only be told there was a policy infraction that prevented eligibility, and nothing else.

But Jenny’s parents aren’t sold, insisting some of the procedures simply need to be spelled out more clearly.

“The more we dig,” said Brian Decker, “the more holes we are finding.”

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