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Parents, Students Blast Northern Valley Regional High School District’s Drug Testing Plan

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DEMAREST, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Some parents and high school students in Bergen County blasted a proposal to randomly drug test teenagers as overreaching Thursday night.

As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported, Christopher Nagy, the superintendent of the Northern Valley Regional High School District, is pushing for the testing because he says nationwide studies show more students are getting hooked on drugs. The proposal would only test students who take part in extracurricular activities or who have parking permits.

“It’s a deterrent,” Nagy said.

“But it gives the opportunity in a therapeutic way for families to deal with an issue at the high school level rather than possibly addressing it later on as an adult with much higher consequences.”

However, at a packed, heated public hearing in Demarest on Thursday night, critics said the plan creates an atmosphere of suspicion and is being partially based on a survey conducted eight years ago.

Brooke Levinson, a star athlete at Demarest High School, said she’s angry about the proposal.

“For us to have to get up and leave class and pee in a cup is just ridiculous,” the sophomore said.

Added her mother, Elysa: “I think (the schools) should be in the business of educating, not parenting.”

“I personally don’t do drugs,” said sophomore Isabelle Ferber. “I don’t do alcohol, and I don’t think I should be suspected of doing it.”

Under the proposal, a failed drug test would ban a student from extracurricular activities, but not lead to a suspension or arrest or go on the student’s school record.

Given the large outcry of concerns about privacy and the overall effectiveness of random testing, parents say they want other drug-prevention options offered and said the plan has flaws.

“We are not a group of parents that are saying ‘no’ and ‘we don’t want this’ and ‘don’t do nothing else,'” mother Donna Weintraub told CBS 2’s Don Champion earlier Thursday. “We’re saying, ‘You’re a board of education, educate the students.’ Reality-based education works.”

“There’s no baseline,” argued mother Annie Hausmann. “How are you going to know if your random drug testing program is working?”

Some parents in favor of the plan are not speaking publicly out of fear they’ll be condemned.

A final vote on the proposal is expected to be held Jan. 27. If approved, it would go into effect next school year.

Students interviewed by Champion hours before the meeting are mixed on how effective random testing might be.

“I’d imagine if there was a chance that somebody could stop you in the hallway and ask you to be tested, then, yeah” it could deter students, Yogesh Dhamija, a senior, said.

“One of the reasons why a lot of kids do drugs is because it’s frowned upon,” said Tim Yoon, a senior. “So if people actually did that, I think it would actually cause some of the kids actually to do more drugs.”

The Northern Valley Regional High School District runs Demarest and Old Tappan high schools.

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