Pubdate: Tue, 12 Nov 2002
Source: Winkler Times (CN MB)
Copyright: 2002 Winkler Times
Author:  Ellie Reimer


The proposed new policy which would see high school athletes subjected to 
informed random testing for drugs and alcohol is a matter of student 
safety, says Garden Valley School Division board chair Hilda Froese.

"We spent thousands of dollars on the new bus loop to keep our students 
safer. Why not this? It's a different issue, but it's still a safety issue. 
If we can give our students added incentive to say 'no', or to stop if 
they're already involved (with drugs), then let's do it."

Positive, Rehabilitative

Froese says the board wants the policy, if it comes into play, to be a 
positive, rehabilitative thing for the division's students.

"And we're definitely not going to proceed on anything before all the legal 
ramifications are worked out," she added.

Froese says the policy is presently under legal review, and they are 
waiting for a response from their lawyer before they proceed any further.

As far as the investigation announced by the provincial ombudsman, Froese 
said, "He's doing his job. His job is checking on these kinds of things, 
and he's doing it."

However, with the policy being only in draft form at this point, anyone 
speaking to it is speaking to the concept, not the actual policy, she 
noted. Details of the proposed policy have not yet been made public.

Winkler no different than other centres

While Winkler police chief Rick Hiebert was reluctant to put forth many 
numbers regarding drug use in the area, he did say incidents involving drug 
possession and trafficking are on the rise in Winkler.

"Our community is no different from any other community," he said. "Anytime 
there are drugs in school, there's a problem. We have a problem and it 
needs addressing."

He said statistics compiled by his department showed 14 drug-related 
incidents for all of 2001, compared with 19 in 2002 until the beginning of 

According to Hiebert, marijuana is the drug of choice in Winkler, with 
cocaine running second.

Parents' Concerns

Chair of the GVC advisory council Cherrie Goertzen is also the parent of 
two high school students.

As chair, she gets to hear from a lot of parents, and she says, in 
principle, most parents agree with the policy. However, there are several 
concerns she hears time and again.

"One thing I hear a lot is people wondering why they're testing only for 
the so-called recreational drugs and not steroids and performance-enhancing 
drugs," she said.

An answer from GVC vice-principal Dan Giesbrecht has satisfied her on that 

"He says it's a whole other kit, another process," she said. "So they're 
wanting to start with this one first."

"Parents are also wondering whether the punishments are a little harsh," 
said Goertzen. "Sitting out for six weeks means, often, the sport is pretty 
much over by that time. What happens to the student, to their sense of 
worth, their desire to play sports, that kind of thing?"

Goertzen says parents are basically supportive, but wanting the board to 
move cautiously on this issue.

"They want to make sure we're consistent, and that everything is done legally."

As a mother, she applauds the proposed policy.

"I think it's great. Drugs have been around forever, and they have become 
(frighteningly) normalized, less scary to try," she says. "Hopefully, this 
will be one more reason for kids to say no."

'Saying No' Message Heard Regularly

Saying no to drugs is a message students hear regularly throughout the 
school year, says Giesbrecht.

"We have our yearly drug awareness week, with multi-media presentations and 
guest speakers, and some of our coaches work one-on-one with students with 
whom they have concerns," he said.

The school's drug policy is printed in the students' agendas, and the 
policy is detailed during homeroom sessions. In addition, Senior 1 students 
have sessions on drug awareness included in their health and physical 
education classes. Students volunteering to go, or mandated because of 
identified problems, are hooked up with the Addictions Foundation of 
Manitoba. "These sessions are completely confidential," says Giesbrecht.

Although the school will verify the student's attendance at the sessions, 
neither the school nor the parents are given any information about 
conversations between the student and the counsellor. At the end of the 
sessions, each party receives a letter indicating the outcome.

"They will tell us that the student needs no further counselling at that 
time, or that the student is not willing to go any longer, not willing to 
make the changes needed, and so counselling is not being effective," said 

Celebrate the Good Choices

However, in all the furor about the proposed drug-testing policy, 
Giesbrecht wants to keep one fact front and center: There are many students 
in Garden Valley Collegiate not doing drugs.

"We also need to celebrate the good choices these kids are making," he 
says, "and there are lots of kids making good choices in our schools."
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