Douglas School Board OKs random drug testing
April 17, 2009
A new policy to randomly drug test students at Whittell High School at Lake Tahoe and Douglas High in Minden who are participating in extracurricular activities was approved by the Douglas County School Board on Tuesday night.
Board members voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the policy, which will take effect in the fall and apply to the 900 or so students, including ninth-graders, who sign contracts of conduct to participate in sports, band, speech and debate and other extracurricular activities.
According to the policy, students and parents will have to sign consent forms before students can participate in such activities. Team rosters will then be provided to an outside company, which will make the random selections and oversee the testing process. Urine samples will be collected and tested for a variety of drugs, including alcohol, nicotine and steroids. The frequency of tests and percentage of students tested will fluctuate throughout the year to prevent recognizable patterns.
“The message we’re trying to send is that it’s a privilege to participate in sports,” said board member Teri Jamin.
However, concerned parents can also opt their children into the program, even if they’re not in an extracurricular activity.
“What they’d be buying is the threat,” said board member Sharla Hales. “They’d be purchasing an excuse that their kids could use to say no.”
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According to the policy, test results will remain confidential between parents and school administrators, and may not be disclosed to any law enforcement agency without a proper subpoena.
Furthermore, students may not be punished academically for positive tests, nor may any results be included in students’ academic records. Only extracurricular privileges will be affected.
As written, a first positive test will result in suspension for the rest of the season. To participate in future activities, a student will have to attend a drug/alcohol assistance program and submit to follow-up tests.
A second offense will result in a 90-day suspension that carries over into any new season. A third positive test will result in the permanent loss of extracurricular activities.
Although board members unanimously supported the program, they debated one element. Originally, district officials had planned to keep students in the testing pool for a full calendar year, despite different lengths of activities.
“Once you sign up for a sport, you’re in the pool,” said Superintendent Carol Lark.
But board member Randy Green said the testing pool should be limited to each season, with the exception of those students in year-round activities. He was worried that including students outside a given season would water down the pool and make the program less effective.
“If football players find out that we’re testing people who play spring sports, they’re going to know that the probability of themselves getting tested is lower,” he said.
District counsel Mike Malloy said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it constitutional to randomly test students presently engaged in extracurricular actives. But he said the court has yet to rule whether the same applies to a student inactive at the time of the test, such as a football player who is tested in the spring while not playing.
“That may be more than legally permitted,” Malloy said.
In the end, board members voted to amend the new policy, limiting the test pool to each season.