Pubdate: Thu, 20 Jul 2000
Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Address: P.O. Box 9136, Corpus Christi, TX 78469-9136
Feedback: http://www.caller.com/commcentral/email_ed.htm
Website: http://www.caller.com/
Author: Lee Goddard

FREER ISD WILL TEST ATHLETES FOR DRUG USE

Scheduled And Random Checks Will Start In Seventh Grade

Athletes in the Freer Independent School District will be given drug tests
within the month, which could make it the first South Texas school district
to test its students for drug use.

Athletes in the seventh through 12th grades will each take at least one drug
test a year, beginning July 31, said Superintendent Carlos Lopez, and random
testing will be done in three phases throughout the school year. Those tests
will be given to athletes - a minimum of 30 each time - who will be selected
at random by a computer. The tests will detect use of amphetamines, cocaine
or marijuana, Lopez said.

"Eventually, a lot of schools will go with this," Lopez said. "I don't care
what anybody says, but every place has a little drug problem."

The Freer district received input on the drug testing policy from law
enforcement officials, clergy and parents, Lopez said, as well as from other
school districts around the state that already test athletes.

Freer athletes contacted Wednesday generally favored the policy but
questioned why it was being directed solely at athletes and not other
students or those involved in extracurricular activities like band, drill
team or speech.

"It will be beneficial more than anything, but I think if they are going to
drug test, they should drug test the whole school and not just the
athletes," said Sam McAnear, a senior offensive lineman on the Buckaroos'
football team.

"I think it's a good idea," said senior Richard Alaniz, who also plays
football. "I haven't talked to many teammates this summer to see what they
think about it, but I think if they do athletes, they should do everybody."

No Freer athletes were disciplined last school year for drug use, Lopez
said. But the school district felt uncomfortable drug testing non-athletes
because while past court rulings have upheld the majority of challenges to
athletic drug testing, they don't necessarily allow for testing the overall
student body, said Gus Acevedo, attorney for the district.

"We need to be very careful with these things," Acevedo said. "They're prone
to subjecting the school district to litigation. Since there is possible
abuse, we adopted this policy.

"For a random test of all students, you need to establish a problem or
previous history of (drug) use to justify the situation where testing is
necessary," he said. "It's a tougher standard when you take it out to the
student body at large."

Officials with the University Interscholastic League and Texas Education
Agency said they believed Freer is the first South Texas school district to
begin drug testing. Last spring, the Corpus Christi Independent School
District briefly considered the idea of drug testing high school athletes.

No Policy at CCISD

Athletic director Richard Avila, as well as athletic coordinators at King,
Miller, Moody and Ray, favored drug testing for athletes, but the CCISD
never implemented such a plan.

Joseph Lopez, the CCISD's executive director for instruction and student
services, said there are no plans for the district to implement drug
testing, though it does educate coaches on catching any signs of potential
drug use.

Avila, who said he believes the CCISD does a good job of detecting drug
users, believes Freer's drug policy is a positive step.

"I say more power to Freer," Avila said. "Some places just have different
ways of doing it."

While every Freer male and female athlete will take the initial drug test,
any may face as many as three more, if selected by the computer.

An athlete that joins a team later in the season automatically will be
administered a first test, according to the policy. A refusal to take a drug
test is considered a positive test result, the policy states.

Three-Strike System

The school district will use a three-strike system:

* On the first positive test, the parent or guardian will be notified, the
athlete will be given drug counseling and must have approval from a
designated district administrator before he or she is reinstated to athletic
activity.

Also, the student will be suspended for 30 days from athletics and may be
re-tested again before being allowed reinstatement.

For one school year, he or she will be subjected to designated drug tests.
After one year of non-positive testing, he or she will return to random test
status.

* A second positive test results again in parental notification and
counseling. The suspension, however, will last 90 days and the student will
take designated tests - the number and frequency of tests to be determined
by the district on a case-by-case basis - for the remainder of his or her
athletic career at Freer.

* After a third strike, the athlete will no longer be allowed to participate
in athletics at Freer.

Test results are cumulative. If, for example, a student tests positive for
drugs as an eighth-grader, a second positive test in any subsequent grade
would be considered strike two.

Lopez estimated that the testing would cost the FISD between $8,000 and
$10,000 per year but said it will be worth the cost.

"The cost is minimal when looking at the benefits," he said. "We feel this
is a step in the right direction. We're trying to cut the problem off at the
pass. We can't ignore it."

Neither the TEA nor the UIL have precise numbers on how many schools are
testing. Kay Beth Stavley of the TEA had a report from the 1998-99 school
year that stated 211 schools in Texas were planning to administer drug tests
in some form.

She did not know if they all followed through on testing.

Bill Farney, the executive director of the UIL, also said he had no solid
statistics, but estimated that approximately 30 or 40 school districts use
some form of drug testing. There are 1,062 school districts in the state
according to the Texas Almanac. Testing for drugs is not against UIL
regulations, Farney said.

"It's not a violation if you don't test and it's not recommended that you do
test," Farney said. "There's not a rule that if you are involved in drugs,
you're ineligible."

Bob Ford, Freer's football and track coach and boys athletic director, said
he has a personal reason for feeling the tests are needed. He recalled an
incident "a few years back" when an athlete nearly killed himself by using
drugs prior to a practice.

"I'm for it. Athletics and drugs don't mix," Ford said. "I had a football
player years back that was in critical condition. The condition was not from
football, but from drugs he put into his body and it dehydrated him. I think
this protects the individual."

Fran Adami, who coaches Freer volleyball, basketball and track in addition
to being in charge of girls athletics, also takes a pro-test stance.

"It helps protect the kids and safeguard what can happen," she said. "The
administration and school board always try to do what's right for the kids.
I think it shows a lot of character for our school to do that."
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