As part of our efforts to provide the safest environment in which our students can learn and participate in extracurricular activities, Brownwood Independent School District administration will soon present to the Board of Trustees a policy recommendation to implement an Extracurricular Random Drug Testing program for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. The objectives of this policy are five-fold: to help maintain student safety and provide a drug free school environment; to allow students an opportunity to say “no” to drugs; to provide a deterrent to drug use for students in grades 7 -12; and to ensure that positive-tested students are required to obtain drug counseling and education.
The goal of this column is to provide a summary of this policy, answer a few common questions, and stimulate discussion. This program will affect students in grades 7 – 12 who participate in extracurricular and co-curricular activities. Included will be all athletic teams and participants, as well as those active in organizations like cheerleading, drill team, band, choir, Crew, FFA, FCA, Student Council, Art Club, Honor Society, Drama Club, etc. If a middle school or high school student is not involved in extracurricular programs, and a parent wants the child to be included in the test pool, a Voluntary Participation program will also be available at no charge.
One question we get relates to the selection of only students in extracurricular activities. Based on the June 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Pottawatomie County v. Earls, random drug testing for all middle and high school students participating in extracurricular activities is allowed. Testing of students in these voluntary activities is legal, but the testing of all students who simply enroll in school has not been upheld. Students participating in these extracurricular activities are those who are publicly representing our district through their various sport- or organizational- roles. Holding them to a higher standard is expected.
After a parent or guardian signs a consent agreement to participate, student names are sent to the testing vendor who does the random selection. Annually, the School Board determines the percentage of students to be tested (up to 100% of students in extracurricular activities). Random tests are conducted at least ten times per school year, with the designated testing dates following no recognizable pattern. Qualified personnel from the vendor are sent to the school to oversee the collection of specimens during testing. Any substances that are illegal to buy, possess, use, sell or distribute under state or federal law, including, but not limited to alcohol, amphetamines, anabolic steroids, barbiturates, other illegal prescription or non-prescription and performance enhancing drugs are eligible for testing.
What happens if there is a positive result? Specimens are collected as split specimens, meaning multiple tests can be run on one specimen. The vendor provides Medical Review Office (MRO) services for interpretation and verification of the results. Any positive results created by prescribed medications and over-the-counter medications used in accordance with their directions will be ruled out by the MRO. On a positive test, the parent/guardian of that student may also have the split specimen retested at their expense, if they choose.
Consequences for positive results are on an increasing scale. On all offenses, the parent/guardian is contacted for a conference where results are shared. All offenses include education and counseling requirements along with automatic selection for follow-up testing each test during the next 90 days. If a student fails a follow-up test, the student is removed from extracurricular participation for 30 school days. If the student tests positive again, the student is removed from all activities for the remainder of the school year. To return to participation the following year, a clean test must be submitted no more than five days before the activity begins the next year. If a student refuses to be tested or to participate in retesting and/or drug education/counseling program, then he or she will be suspended from all extracurricular activities until an agreement of participation in the testing program is reached. An appeal process will be in place for suspensions. Further details on the program are available online at the brownwoodisd.org website. The policy was discussed at the latest School Health Advisory Council meeting and is on the agenda for the May 5 District Site-Based Committee meeting. This meeting begins at 5:00 pm at the BISD Administration Building and is open to the public. Your input at the meeting or via a representative on the Committee is appreciated.
Students will not face academic consequences for positive tests. BISD will maintain the confidentiality of drug test results unless compelled to release them through a legal process. It is the goal of BISD to provide the counseling and drug education services to students that will help them make better decisions regarding their health and compliance with the law. We want to function as educators and good stewards of our students; we recognize that we are not in a law enforcement role.
Research into the effectiveness of random drug screening in public schools is mixed. While research does list a number of positive reasons for conducting random testing, we realize that we will not be able to completely identify those in the student population who are using or selling drugs. An argument counter to the selection of extracurricular students for testing is that a student heavily involved in drug use will not be the student who chooses frequent participation in these types of activities. We recognize that fact, but choose this program to discourage the use of drugs and alcohol in our student representatives and set an example of no tolerance for participation in the drug problem facing today’s society. The policy we have approved sets a tone of zero tolerance, while also focusing on the help and rehabilitation of our students who have made choices that could negatively affect their futures. Our focus is, and shall continue to be, on the health, safety, and well-being of our students within our District. To that end, BISD will tirelessly work to provide a safe environment where every student can excel to his or her potential.
The is the first edition of the BISD Blurb, which is a monthly column that will appear in the Bulletin.