ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) - Random drug testing of students has become a hot-button issue in southern Baldwin County. Outspoken Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon challenged the school system to bring back drug testing in a rally held Wednesday night.
"IT'S NOT OKAY"
"It's not okay" That's the message Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon has about drugs in schools. Kennon held a town hall rally to get the community behind a solution to the drug problem.
"I'm drawing a line in the sand we will not have chaos in our classrooms," Kennon said. "Drug testing is part of that."
Kennon wants a re-instatement of random drug testing in Baldwin county middle schools and high schools.
Hundreds showed up at the Orange Beach Community Center to discuss Kennon's idea. This showed that the community cares, but their opinions differed.
Jim McPhillips has a daughter in the school system. He said there wasn't a need for drug testing when he was in school, but times have changed.
"Part of me thinks it's a little intrusive, the other part I want my child to be safe. I am kind of came here to get educated," said McPhillips.
Gulf Shores High school student Tyler Jones thinks it's unecessary. He says it won't make a difference for students who choose to take drugs.
"It's a deterrent to go to school and I have friends that have and say they would rather not go to school, said Jones.
Shai Markis was there on behalf of the Baldwin County Community Alliance. The groups initial goal was to tackle underage drinking, but it has seen an increase in risky behavior.
"Prescription drugs has been a really important topic lately. We've added prescription drugs to our goals this year"
Kennon believes this is the best option and he wants serious consequences for students that fail tests.
"If they test positive for drugs won't them expelled. I want their mommy and daddy to deal with the problem, cause it may be the first time they've ever been forced to deal with a problem."
Angie Swiger, on the Baldwin County School Board said one strike and you're out is too severe.
"I think you have to give them more than one chance. I think you have a lot of good kids that get caught making bad decisions, and you can't kick every child out that makes a mistake. Heaven forbid in our own homes, we were to kick our kids out every time they did something wrong."
Any decision on drug testing would have to go through the school board. Swiger does support drug testing, but said there has to be a safety net to help students that don't pass.
"We have to give them avenues to correct their issues and get right," Swiger said.
"They're momma and daddy can pay for them to go to private school. They can pay for them to go to rehab. They can home school them. They can do anything they want, but they can't come to school on taxpayer dollars and create problems," Kennon said.
$80,000 TO TEST
Random drug testing has been done before in Baldwin County Schools, but funding was cut. At a cost of about $80,000, drug testing is something Kennon said is more cost-effective than other programs that have been cut.
"I'm trying to tell the school system it's not their schools; it's our schools. And it's time for the community to take our schools back and help them to understand you need to work with us," Kennon said.
Swiger points out Amendment 2 to extend the penny sales tax on November's ballot is vital to fund anything the board might consider.
Kennon said if the board approves drug tests, the city could fund it in its schools for a year, but after that he says the board needs to step up to the plate. He says this is a good investment that will profit, and he thinks the board is making bad business decisions.
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