Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jul 2013
Source: Orange County Review (VA)
Author: Gracie Hart Brooks


Under a new proposed plan, some Orange County students may soon
undergo drug testing.

An Orange County Public Schools committee, comprised of parents,
students, coaches, activities directors and administrators, has spent
the past several weeks working on a plan that would screen students
for drug use.

The plan would only affect those students in grades 6-12 who
participate in competitive extracurricular activities and Virginia
High School League related activities-sports, band, JROTC, Orange
County B.A.S.S. Anglers and more. It wouldn't affect co-cirricular
activities such as Future Business Leaders of America and Future
Farmers of America.

The idea to drug test students came about as a result of a recent
youth risk behavior survey. The survey was given in March to students
in eighth, 10th and 12th grades. The questions asked about risky
behaviors related to violence, personal safety, tobacco use, alcohol
and other drug use, technology use, sexual behaviors, unhealthy
dietary behaviors and physical activity.

More than 550 students completed the survey, ranging in age from
13-18, with 292 eighth-graders, 186 10th-graders and 120 12th-graders.
Parents were given the option to keep their children from taking the
survey through an opt-out procedure.

The results of the survey were presented to the school board in late
May and showed that students are doing more than just studying and
taking tests. As for the core measures-alcohol, tobacco and
marijuana-Orange County Public Schools Director of Student Services
Eugene Kotulka reported that 22.9 percent of middle school and 44.9
percent of high school students said they had used alcohol in the past
30 days with the average onset of use being 10.6 years-old for
middle-schoolers and 12.2 years-old for high-schoolers. More than 64
percent of middle school and 60 percent of high school students said
alcohol use is harmful and 76 percent of middle school and 66.6
percent of high school students said their parents would disapprove.
According to survey results, 14.1 percent of middle school students
and 26.2 percent of high school students used tobacco in the past 30
days, with the average age on onset as 10.9 years-old for middle
school and 12.6 years-old for high sc! hool. More than 82 percent of
middle school and 84 percent of high school students said smoking is
harmful and 93.1 percent of middle school and 85 percent of high
school students said their parents would disapprove. With marijuana,
15.2 percent of middle school and 34.8 percent of high school students
reported use in the past 30 days with the average onset 10.8 years-old
for middle school and 12.8 years-old for high school. More than 73
percent of middle school and 48 percent of high school students said
marijuana is harmful and 92.1 percent of middle school and 79.7
percent of high school students said their parents would disapprove.
As for prescription drugs, 8.3 percent of middle school and 12.9
percent of high school students reported using them in the past 30
days with the age of onset 9.7 years-old for middle school and 13.3
years-old for high school. In both age groups, 89 percent of students
reported the use of prescription drugs as harmful and 95.6 pe! rcent
of middle school and 90.7 percent of high school studen! ts said there
parents would disapprove.

As for other drug use, which has the 2011 local statistics as well as
national statistics for comparison, 6.6 percent of middle school and
12.9 percent of high school students report having used cocaine in
their lifetime, up from 6.2 and 6.6 percent in 2011 and compared to
6.8 percent nationally. More than 15 percent of middle school and 17.1
percent of high school students used inhalants, compared to 11.4
percent nationally. In 2011, 20.6 percent and 9.1 percent reported
using the drugs. As for synthetic marijuana, new to the survey this
year and with no national comparison, 13 percent of middle school and
24.7 percent of high school student reported having used the substance.

"With cocaine, we received a report from the sheriff's office that it
is being used more than before in this area," Kotulka said. He said
the increases in the survey results about the drug seemed to follow

The survey also asked questions regarding depression, suicide and
other health-related issues. More information about those results and
more can be obtained by contacting Kotulka at 661-4550.

In the meantime, administrators are working to combat all of the
problems highlighted by the survey.

Drug testing arose as one of the options.

"Clearly we have a seen a rise in the use of marijuana," District 3
school board member Judy Carter said at a recent school board meeting.
She then asked if drug testing would be a possibility. Other school
board members said they too were interested in discussing the
possibility of drug testing.

According to Kotulka, two Virginia school divisions currently conduct
drug testing-Salem City Public Schools and Pulaski County Public
Schools. He said the testing would be done via oral swabs or
urinalysis. He said the school division would work with a company that
would assign each student involved in extracurricular activities a
number. The company then randomly selects numbers from among those
assigned to test. The company would conduct any urinalysis testing
while a school administrator would conduct any testing done via oral

The tests would then be submitted to the company which would screen
them and contact the school with any positive results. Special care
would be taken to ensure the positive result isn't due to a
prescription the student has been issued. Parents will be contacted
for verification of any prescriptions. Also, Kotulka said
confidentiality is very important and the tests and their results will
be kept confidential.

For students who test positive, there will be a four-step system. For
the first positive test, a student will be suspended from 20 percent
of their contests, so an athlete, for example, would miss 20 percent
of their team's games. The student would also be placed into an
education program regarding substance abuse with parental
participation as well. A student who tests positive a second time
would miss 50 percent of their contests and go through an even more
intense education program. A third positive test would mean a one-year
suspension from activities for the student and a fourth test would
suspend the student from participating in activities for the remainder
of their school career.

"It isn't meant to be punitive," Kotulka said. "The idea is to be
aggressive in working to prevent the issue and provide early

"Participation in extracurricular activities is a priviledge," Orange
County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bob Grimesey said.

Both high school and middle school students who participate in
extracurricular activities would be submitted to testing on a random
basis according to their activity's schedule. For example, Kotulka
said a football player could be tested from the start of the football
season to the end of the football season.

The testing is expected to cost approximately $5,000 to $7,000
annually. Kotulka said it will be funded through the student services
budget. He hopes to have the plan in place before the start of the
fall sports season.

School board members are expected to discuss the proposal further at
its July 29 work session. Any vote would be taken during the Aug. 5
regular meeting. A public comment session on the issue is expected to
occur at that same meeting. In the meantime, anyone wishing to comment
on the proposal is encouraged to contact Kotulka at 661-4550