Pubdate: Wed, 15 May 2013
Source: Register-Herald, The (Beckley, WV)
Copyright: 2013 The Register-Herald
Author: Jessica Farrish


BECKLEY - A drug policy proposed for Raleigh County students was
placed on a 30-day comment period at the monthly meeting of the
Raleigh County Board of Education.

If approved, the policy will mandate that every student in grades 6-12
who wants to participate in school-related competitive activities,
including academic activities, or drive to school and park on the
property, to submit to random drug testing.

The sole speaker during a discussion on the proposed policy, Raleigh
County Education Association Co-President Marie Hamrick, opposed it.

"This sort of policy is nothing more than a media-attention-grabbing
program, which may play well with certain groups of the public," said
Hamrick. "There is no research-based data that shows such drug testing
prevents or reduces the drug use among students."

Citing research conducted in August 2011 by the Annenburg Public
Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, Hamrick said that
similar policies only reduced drug use in schools with a "very good
climate." In those schools, Hamrick said, the research showed that the
intervention had a protective influence on adolescent girls. "It seems
the key to less drug use is a good school climate," said Hamrick.
"School systems should consider ways to improve their school climate
before embarking on drug testing. Research does show that schools with
good climates have less drug use."

She said the policy's purpose could be met by using the projected cost
of implementation to employ social workers and drug prevention
counselors at each county high school.

"To target student athletes and those driving to school ... seems to
be just having a ‘we're on the bandwagon' policy which will gain
no real results or improvement on student drug testing," she said.
"And who does it target? For lack of a better descriptive, the
‘better' kids ... that have to keep the grades up to participate
in sports and the kids whose parents have granted them permission and
the vehicle to drive to school.

"My guess would be that there are requirements from the parents for
the privilege of driving to school."

Another concern is that of a student getting a "false positive" on a
test, she added. Hamrick said research showed false positives to be "a
valid concern." The currently proposed guideline is that a second test
will be performed after a positive result, and the cost of the two
tests will be free of charge.

"If the parent wants further testing to contest a positive reading,
then the parent is responsible for the cost," Hamrick said. "Just
because your child chose to play sports or drive to school, you as a
parent will be required to assume the cost of additional testing past
the two paid for by Raleigh County, if you wish to grieve the
questionable results."

At an earlier board meeting, board member Cynthia Jafary had expressed
concerns about false positives. Jafary had also remarked "there is no
better drug test than a caring adult who has their eyes open.

"You are taking the risk of handing out blinders to parents and they
will stop looking for signs of abuse," Jafary said, referring to the
proposed policy.

Under the policy, parents sign a consent form that their kids may be
randomly selected for a urine test. The names of students who
participate in extracurricular activities or drive to school will be
placed on a list, and names will be chosen at random by an independent
drug testing company. The cost of the program would be between
$130,000 to $150,000 annually and includes the testing and salary of
someone to oversee drug prevention, intervention and support in the

Students who refuse to submit to a test under the proposed policy will
not be eligible to participate in the activities for one calendar
year; and, the student will not be considered for any interscholastic
activity honors or awards given by the district. BOE President Richard
Snuffer said the goal of the policy is prevention.

"The reason students who drive to school and participate in
extracurricular activities are covered by the policy is because going
to school is a right, but extracurricular participation and driving to
school are privileges," Snuffer said.

Consequences for a positive drug test include showing that the student
is receiving drug counseling in order to continue participating in the
school activity, suspension from the activity and additional drug 

In other actions, board members approved the 2013-2014 academic
calendar. School for students starts Aug. 15 and will end between May
22, 2014 and June 5, 2014. Traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas
breaks are observed, while spring break will occur the week prior to
Easter, Superintendent Jim Brown said. School begins Aug. 12 for teachers.

Board member Richard Jarrell remarked that the calendar was altered
for the upcoming year by adjusting the number of days in the first
trimester to end at winter break. Finals will not be looming over
Christmas break under the new calendar, he said.

* * *

To review the proposed policy, go to the Raleigh County Schools
website at

Look for the link titled "Revised Policy D.2.11 on additional 30-day
comment" under the News category.
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