Pubdate: Thu, 21 May 2009
Source: Azle News (TX)
Copyright: 2009, Azle News and HCN Online Services
Author: Edwin Newton
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


Beginning this August, every Azle ISD student  participating in an 
extracurricular activity will get a  drug test. The policy, adopted 
by the school board  Tuesday night, applies to an estimated 2,000 
students  in grades 7-12.

A few months ago, AISD formed a task force to address  the rising 
number of drug-related incidents in schools.  One of its first 
recommendations was a new drug-testing  policy.

Currently, all students participating in  extracurricular activities 
are subject to random drug  testing. The new policy makes a test 
mandatory -- and  continues the policy of random testing whenever 
possible as well.

"The drug task force believes that testing all the  designated 
students once and then having them eligible  to be tested again, 
based on a random selection  process, would make an impact on the 
drug problems on  the campuses," said Skip McCambridge, director of 
student services.

Board member Shannon Hart said mandatory testing will  serve as a 
deterrent for students who are contemplating  taking drugs. No one 
likes to lose eligibility to  participate in a sport or activity he 
or she loves.

"It gives them the opportunity to say 'I'm not going to  do that,'" he said.

As McCambridge said Tuesday, "it's going to keep the  good kids good."

"Letting the student know that they are going to be  tested will give 
them the excuse they need to say  'no,'" he said.

Board member Erik Loeffelholz said he wanted a change  in the initial 
policy that said mandatory drug testing  would be done at the first 
of the year. He said it's  important not to give students who want to 
take drugs a  chance to work around the system. He said the policy 
shouldn't include a time frame.

Board member Sam Merck said drug testing done at the  first of the 
year would still be an effective tool.  Drugs like marijuana "stay in 
the system" for several  months, he said.

"By doing it at the beginning of the year, there's a  good chance we 
can keep them clean for several months,"  Merck said.

The board voted 7-0 to adopt the policy with no time  frame for 
testing mentioned.

The school district will pay Texas Health Harris  Methodist Hospital 
Azle $32,000 to conduct the testing  -- about $18 a student.

McCambridge said although the logistics involving in  testing 2,000 
students seems challenging, the hospital  says it can handle the workload.

"We would like to have most of them tested by the  December break," he said.

McCambridge is not yet sure where the testing will take  place. In 
the past is has been done at the AHS field  house. But that didn't 
involve 2,000 students -- two  thirds of the total student population 
in grades 7-12.

McCambridge said the next step is to inform parents and  students of 
the change. Students not participating in  extracurricular activities 
will be eligible for  testing, too, if their parent or guardian 
decides to  opt in.

"Our drug testing policy has always allowed parents to  register 
their child to participate in the drug testing  program even if they 
are not," he said. "We are going  to make a strong push next fall to 
have as many  students registered as possible."

A student who tests positive for drug use must receive  a second test 
from a drug testing laboratory to confirm  the initial finding. A 
meeting involving a parent or  guardian is also required.

A positive test also means that a second, random test  will assuredly 
take place. Refusal to allow this test  will affect a student's 
eligibility to participate in  the activity.

Ray Ivey, director of administration for AISD, said  drug testing is 
designed to be "helpful, not punitive"  -- at least at the outset.

McCambridge said testing students early on -- at the  7th grade level 
- -- also might help set a pattern for  drug abstinence.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom