Schools to randomly drug test students

By Carolyn Cole
Published on June 12, 2008

Mustang students participating in extracurricular activities may face drug testing starting in August if Mustang School Board members decide to approve a proposed policy.

MSD Superintendent Karl Springer told board members Monday night officials plan to bring a drug testing policy proposal to a special meeting June 25. The board will also hear an update on fiscal year 2007-2008 at the meeting, which will start at 6:30 p.m. at Mustang Education Center.

Board members are expected to hear the proposal, give it 30 days of consideration and return with a response in July. Meanwhile, Springer said the district will request proposals from drug testing companies.

“There has not been any individual thing that has happened in our community that has caused us to take this step,” he said. “But we feel like we have done as much as we can do with the current policy and to improve, we need to take it up to the next level.”

While officials are still writing the proposed policy, Springer said, if approved, the drug testing will begin this August. The policy is modeled after a Tecumseh document, which withstood U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny.

Under the policy, Mustang Mid-High and Mustang High School students participating in extracurricular activities that represent the district in competitions will undergo drug testing with parent permission. In the first year, Springer said drug testing will be random, with about a quarter of these students being tested.

In August 2009, all students, ninth- through 12th-grade, participating in these activities would take drug tests. Then the youth would face random testing through the school year.

MHS Principal Terry Tipton estimated between 1,000 and 1,100 youth would be affected by the policy, including students who are involved in athletics, choir, band, drama and other activities. Springer said each test is expected to cost between $12 and $15.

Mustang School District already has a policy of drug testing youth caught on campus with drugs or alcohol. In the last school year, Tipton said 34 high school students were found with drugs or alcohol at school. Those students face a year suspension, or they can choose a 10-day suspension if the youth agrees to undergo counseling and random drug testing.

“You have these kids who are getting caught,” Tipton said. “You have a lot of kids who are doing it. This will give those kids a reason to say no — that’s why. It’s prevention. We are trying to help all of our kids, but if we held a few we will be alright.”

In Yukon, Assistant Superintendent Kent Mathers said in the four years since the neighboring school district adopted a similar drug testing policy, about 1.5 percent of drug tests given have turned out positive for substances.

Yukon School District has contracted with CRG drug testing company for about $15,000 per year, or $16 per drug test conducted, he said. School officials identify about 1,000 high school students representing the district in competitions who qualify for drug testing. These students include youth involved in athletics, band, academic team, debate, vocal music, Future Farmers of America and DECA marketing club.

Officials send a list of names to the drug testing company, where they are entered into a database. A computer program selects between 7 percent and 10 percent of these students at random each month for drug tests. Mathers said principals don’t receive the list of names selected until the morning of the test.

If the child or parent of the child refuses the drug test, Mathers said the youth no longer qualifies to participate in activities.

“Education is a right,” he said. “Competing is not.”

Testing is limited to youth participating in activities because it mirrors the language in the Tecumseh policy, which was upheld as Constitutional in the U.S. Supreme Court. Mathers said he believes someday another school district will push the boundaries to include more students, but it will most likely not be Yukon due to the thousands of dollars required for legal fees.

“It was very costly for Tecumseh,” he said.

While Mathers said he knows Yukon’s drug testing policy isn’t going to catch all students using illicit substances in his district, it does discourage youth considering using socially. He said few “heavy users” are involved in extracurricular activities.

“Sometimes with recreational users, they are involved in activities,” he said. “We have found the drug testing is a very good deterrent.”

Under the Yukon policy, students are given urine tests. If the sample tests positive, the drug test company sends a sample to a certified lab for further testing and to identify the related substances. If the sample tests positive for a prescription medication, drug test company officials check with parents to see if the youth has a prescription and is under the care of a doctor.

Otherwise, the school principal schedules a meeting with the student, the parents, the school activity sponsor and a counselor. On a first offense, the youth is suspended from participating in the activity for 10 days and must undergo an assessment with a certified drug and alcohol counselor and the family must attend a series of classes on drugs and alcohol. The student then is tested monthly for drugs.

If the youth tests positive again, Mathers said the student is suspended from their activity for the remainder of the school year or 81 days, whichever is longest.
“It becomes up to the parent to do something ... they need to take matters into their own hands,” Mathers said.

In Mustang, Tipton said school officials are considering the consequences for positive tests as they write the proposal.

“There will be a due process,” he said. “We will have to look at the policy in depth. It has not been approved at this point. We will wait and see.”

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