Pubdate: Wed, 12 Apr 2006
Source: Arizona Range News (AZ)
Copyright: 2006 Arizona Range News
Contact: (520) 384-3572
Author: Ainslee S. Wittig, Arizona, Range News
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)
Note: Weekly, published Weds.


Random student drug testing could become a reality at  Willcox middle
and high schools by fall.

The Willcox School Board approved forming a committee  of community
members to solicit public opinion to see  if there is need for a
school drug-testing policy,

If so, they will also recommend a draft student  drug-testing policy
for the district.

Following two town hall meetings and evidence of need,  a policy would
be drafted and presented to the board in  June or July for approval,
amendments or rejection.

"Illegal use of drugs is an increasing problem in our  society. In my
opinion, the district needs to send a  strong message. We want to give
kids a way not to do  (meth/illegal drugs). If we can keep just one
kid from  trying (meth), it's worth doing," said Superintendent  Dr.
Don Roberts.

Roberts said that the district can verify a large  amount of
drug/alcohol abuse, and therefore can justify  the random drug testing.

"We owe it to our community, parents and students. This  gives kids a
chance to say no to peer pressure. They  can just say they don't want
to get caught," he said.

Any seventh-through 12th-grade student participating  in
extra-curricular activities, including sports, fine  arts, or others
such as FFA and FBLA, would be subject  to random testing.

To decrease costs, random testing instead of blanket  testing could be
used, Roberts said.

"We'll be reaching a large percentage of our  population, as no one
knows who will be tested and who  won't," he said.

Options for testing include urine or saliva tests,  Saliva tests are
less invasive and also test for  alcohol, he said, while urine tests
can detect drugs  that have been in the system longer.

In most policies, a positive test result would require  that student
to be removed from the extra-curricular  activity for a specified
amount of time or until  negative results are obtained, he said. The
board could  determine the consequences, but the student may not be
penalized academically, suspended or expelled.

Board President Jan Kortsen said if a policy is  implemented, "we must
also be able to give students  testing positive a way to obtain help,
whether medical  or counseling."

Dr. Dawn Walker, chief of medical staff at Northern  Cochise Community
Hospital and member of the meth task  force in Willcox and the
Partnership for a Drug Free  America, said there are some
counseling/rehabilitation  options available for youth in the area,
but getting  that "treatment is difficult in Arizona, which is a
state issue, not a Willcox issue." But, she said,  medical attention
is always available if needed.

Sally White, director of Willcox Against Substance  Abuse, said, "If
the committee approaches the community  for feedback, it is likely
they'll be behind us. Right  up until the star player of a team
doesn't pass before  the big game. But I think we have the most
comprehensive (drug awareness) education program in  Arizona, and this
is a logical next step."

Roberts said confidentiality is imperative, and only  one person
(other than the tested child) will know the  test results.

However, he said that, while there is confidentiality,  "the kids may
know because that player is not there and  kids talk."

White said "meth isn't going to be the big one (you  find in testing).
Pot is the one that will blow your  mind" (because of how many use

Police Chief Jake Weaver said meth use has decreased  this year
compared to last year, and emergency room  visits, arrest rates and
parents testing or talking  about their children using it have declined.

Walker said a "very low percentage (of use here) is  meth. But (for
each person using it), it's very  devastating. That's why there's such
a big campaign to  stop it."

Roberts said that if a policy is approved, they'd like  to start it in
the fall so that students could have the  summer to "get clean if they
are using before being  tested."

The committee will consist of Superintendent Dr. Don  Roberts; School
Board member Mike Moss; high school  Principal Joel Todd; middle
school Principal Doris  Jones; Willcox Police Chief Jake Weaver; WASA
Director  Sally White; and still to be determined: one member of  the
Willcox meth task force; a representative from the  7th-12th athletic
department; a representative from  non-athletic extra-curricular
activities; a middle  school student; a high school student; a middle
school  parent; and high school parent; and a school district  legal
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