Pubdate: Wed, 11 Aug 2004
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2004 The Decatur Daily
Author: Bayne Hughes
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


A positive drug test should not be the death knell for student athletes,
according to Supervisor of Safety and Alternative Education Phil Hastings.

Hastings recommended that the Decatur City Board of Education make two
changes to Decatur's drug testing policy as it enters its third year.

On behalf of the committee that studied the policy, Hastings suggested
Tuesday that the board adopt an additional penalty for test failure and
adopt a change that would get the students back in action more quickly.

Hastings recommended that a student be suspended until tests are negative
for alcohol or illegal drugs, but for at least 21 calendar days.

According to Hastings, a student failing a drug test under the current
policy, is suspended only until a negative retest. Only failure for use of
nicotine requires a 21-day suspension.

Hastings said the committee wanted to correct the inconsistency in the

The committee also suggested allowing a suspended student to continue
practicing if permitted by the coach or sponsor of the team or activity.
Hastings said this would keep a student from being unable to play after

"We don't want drug testing to be like the death penalty for their sports
careers," Hastings said. "If a student misses practice a month or longer, it
would be hard to keep his skills and come back later. That would effectively
take him off the team."

Hastings said the goal is to keep students involved. Last year, the school
system tested 765 students in 22 competitive extracurricular activities like
sports, band, chorus, drama and forensics. There were 39 positive tests,
including 22 for nicotine, 14 for marijuana, one for Phenobarbital, one for
ecstasy and one for cocaine.

"Half of the positives were students who quit participating, but we kept
them on the list because their parents wanted to do so," Hastings said.
"That shows you how much staying involved helps. If they drop out of
activities, they're more at-risk to drug use."

Tuesday's meeting was the first reading of the suggested policy changes. The
school board will vote on the changes at the Sept. 14 meeting.

The school board also voted to renew its agreement with Alabama Specialty
Clinic to conduct the random drug tests at a cost of $30 per test.

Hastings said he was pleased with the service the school system got from the
Cullman company. 
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