Pubdate: Thu, 16 Oct 2008
Source: News Chief (FL)
Copyright: 2008
Author: Maya Carpenter
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


BARTOW - Random drug tests for high school students who engage in
competitive extracurricular activities is a necessity, one Polk County
school official said.

High school athletes have been tested for drug and alcohol abuse use
for almost five years, and the program needs to be expanded to include
more students, said Audrey Kelley-Fritz, the senior manager of
Prevention, Health and Wellness Services for Polk County Public Schools.

At their Tuesday meeting, Polk County School Board members voted to
expand the school district's drug-testing policy to include all
students involved with high school extracurricular activities.

The school district submitted a grant request to the U.S. Department
of Education so the district could expand the drug testing beyond just
the athletes.

Kelley-Fritz said the district would be "behind the times" if the
request to expand drug testing had not been made.

"If you want to improve drug-testing results, expand your pool," she

The Highlands County school system has implemented a similar program
and is doing very well with it, Kelley-Fritz said.

The proposal was accepted by the federal government and the district
was given almost $580,500 to cover three years worth of testing, she

Kelley-Fritz said expanding the testing program is vital for three

District officials determined that students in extracurricular
organizations, such as the Future Business Leaders of America and
Future Farmers of America, might benefit by being added to the testing
pool. When the district's drug-testing program began in 2004, parents
and School Board members wanted to know why only athletes would be

Every focus group dealing with the issue and including students and
teachers requested that students in addition to athletes be tested.

"If you look at all three of those, by the end of this program we will
have a great idea of how it works," Kelley-Fritz said.

She said that since the drug-testing program began for athletes, the
number of students who tested positive for illegal substances dropped
20 percent in 12 months, "which means less students are using drugs
for long periods of time."

Kelley-Fritz said her office tests about 3,000 Polk high school
athletes every year. Of that number, about 1 percent test positive for
drugs. She said that according to the federal government, a successful
drug-prevention program is one that has positive tests of 1 percent or

The district's expanded testing will include students who participate
in activities that involve some kind of competition, something in
which a first-, second- and third-place award is presented,
Kelley-Fritz said.

The forms explaining the testing policy have been released to all Polk
County schools to distribute to students and parents. Both parties are
required to sign the form before a student can participate in any
competitive activity.

Since distribution of the forms began, Kelley-Fritz said she's
received eight or nine phone calls from parents requesting more

"Most parents are not upset," she said.

Drug testing will occur randomly using a numerical selection process
in which each competitive student's name and identity remain unknown
until the selection is completed, according to the policy.

Not every student will be called for a drug test. If a student
declines to sign the form, he or she also chooses not to participate
in the extracurricular organization, Kelley-Fritz said.

Students are tested at school by a licensed nurse practitioner or a
person sent by the drug courts, Kelley-Fritz said. The cost per sample
is $18 for a basic test, but there are extra expenses if the sample
requires further testing, she said.

The expanded drug-testing policy will take effect when all high
schools have turned in all required forms, Kelly-Fritz said.
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