Pubdate: Sun, 27 Nov 2011
Source: Clarion-Ledger, The (Jackson, MS)
Copyright: 2011 The Clarion-Ledger
Author: Ellen Ciurczak


HATTIESBURG - The Lamar County School District is expanding its 
random drug testing program to include more than 1,000 of its nearly 
9,250 students this year.

In the past few years, the district has randomly drug tested only 
about 350 students annually.

"My overall goal is to get to 2,000 to 3,000 drug tests a year, 
especially with our district growing," Superintendent Ben Burnett said.

The district randomly drug tests students in the eighth through 12th 
grades who are involved in extracurricular activities.

"All of our extracurricular activities put our students at risk," 
Burnett said, "whether it's being on the football field or being on a 
band trip. This is for the students' safety and for the safety of 
those participating with them."

The district used to receive federal grant money to drug test 
students. At that time, it randomly tested more than 1,000 students a 
year, Burnett said.

But Burnett said the grant ran out in 2009 or 2010 and the district 
decreased the number of students it tested.

This year, Burnett said, Wesley Medical Center agreed to lower 
testing costs.He said the district will spend about $20,000 this year 
on the random drug tests.

Burnett would not say how many students are testing positive for drugs.

"The number has never been released," he said. "It's an extremely low number."

Burnett said he's hoping parents also will give permission for 
students who are not involved in extracurricular activities to be tested.

Burnett said he thinks that by randomly drug testing students 
involved in extracurricular activities, the district is reaching most students.

"The overwhelming majority of our students are involved in something," he said.

Terry Underwood, the athletic director for Oak Grove High School, 
said he thinks it's a good idea for the district to expand its testing program.

"I don't think it's ever a bad thing," he said. "Young people know 
they have to abide by this to participate in these activities. In a 
lot of their jobs or work, this (drug testing) is going on - and in 
the military. It's just prevalent in society these days."

Oak Grove High School senior soccer player Clay Richardson had to 
take a random drug test.

"It wasn't a big deal," he said. "It was standard procedure."

Richardson said expanding the district's drug testing program makes 
sense to him.

"It's not a bad idea because if you do drugs, it could affect your 
school work," he said.

Oak Grove High School junior Nan Buti, who runs cross country and 
track, said taking a random drug test is not a worry for her.

"I know that I'm safe, and there's nothing to worry about because I 
don't do drugs," she said.

Buti said she thinks it is a good idea for the district to expand its 
testing program because its population is growing.

Random searches

Random drug testing is not the only way the district is fighting 
drugs on campus, Burnett said. It also conducts random drug searches 
at schools, he said.

So far this year, school district police and the district's K-9 have 
conducted drug searches at all the district's high schools and middle 
schools, as well as Baxterville School. No illegal contraband was found.

Lamar County School District is not the only school district in the 
Pine Belt to randomly drug test students.

Petal School District has been randomly drug testing students 
involved in extracurricular activities since the 1994-95 school year.

In the Hattiesburg school district, student athletes in grades nine 
through 12 are subject to random drug testing.

The Forrest County School District tests about 10 percent of the 
students in grades seven through 12 involved in extracurricular activities.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart