School District to Randomly Drug Test Students

By  | 

Tests are nothing new to students, but random drug tests may be something student athletes at one northeast Kansas school district have to look forward to next semester.

USD 397 Clay County's Drug Test Policy Committee is recommending the school board hire Sport Safe, an Ohio-based company that specializes in random drug tests for schools.

"We feel like we have enough of a problem with the data that we have received from the Kansas Community that Cares survey, parents, student and staff surveys from an efficiency review process," said USD 397 Superintendent Mike Folks.

USD 397 is considering testing students in grades six through 12, randomly, if they participate in extracurricular activities. That doesn't include things that return a grade, such as band. But there are portions of band that are extracurricular, like marching in a parade or pep band at a football game. "Band kids will be included but it will not be affecting anything as far as academics."

Random drug testing is not something the Kansas Association of School Boards recommends.

There are less than 10 districts in the state with a random drug testing policy, said KASB Assistant Executive Director of Legal Services, Donna Whiteman. Many of those are smaller rural schools, like Moundridge and Maize.

Whiteman says there are a few reasons the association doesn't recommend schools adopt a drug testing policy. The first is that drug testing is a "moment in time" test. "Students could be tested randomly today and pass the test, yet still be using the rest of the week," said Whiteman.

The second reason is that Kansas law gives principals wide authority to checks and discipline if they suspect a student is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Folks says the district is hoping to deter students from using drugs or alcohol to begin with. "We are concerned enought that we want to do more than testing when we have reasonable suspicion," said Folks. "Our goal is to be proactive instead of reactive with the issue."

"The third reason, it's very costly," said Whiteman. She said drug tests can cost a school up to $50 each time.

Folks said the district would get a good deal from Sport Safe at about $28 per test. "The board is still working on an actual budget for this," he said. "We anticipate we will use part of our Title IV drug-free money and then we'll take the rest of it just either our of general or supplemental general fund.

"I'm anticipating that we'll spend approximately $7500 a year on this program."

USD 379 is working with Clay Counts, a community grant to help deter drinking and substance abuse. Folks said he believes that grant will help pay for drug and alcohol counselors to be placed in the high school and middle school.

If the program is implemented, Folks said the urine collection would actually be handled by a person hired by the company that's responsible for the random drug testing, that way no school officials get involved in the process.

"The company we're looking at will contact the parents first if there is a positive test before they notify the school district," said Folks. "And if there is a small detection amount - which is below the unacceptable amount - they will contact the parents and not contact the school with that information."

There are legal challenges the KASB expects schools will have to deal with if implementing this program. "I think any district that's going to do it has to anticipate that there may be a legal challenge from a parent or student who will challenge the procedures and process," said Whiteman.

Folks said he has heard some negative feedback to the idea, but the majority of reaction he's getting is positive.

"We believe the negatives to be that some students are going to have anxiety of having to provide a urine sample," he said. "Some believe middle school students being tested would be a negative."

"Overall I believe our parents and our community, our students, will be accepting and appreciative of this policy," said Folks. "But it'll take some time to see the effects of this policy and how effective it's truly been."

At a board meeting on December 8, the committee will make policy recommendations for board members to discuss. Folks said this is something the board has been working on for the past year and a half to two years.

At its meeting in January, the board will vote whether to approve the additional policy and Sport Safe. If that's approved, schools will look to start random testing sometime in the spring semester.