R-V board to pursue drug testing policy

Friday, September 23, 2005

Southwest school will also be tightening its student dress code in 2005-06

By Lisa Schlichtman

The Southwest R-V School Board voted on Thursday night to officially tighten the school dress code and pursue a random drug testing policy for the district.

Both action items passed by a 5-2 vote with Danny Dalton, Robert Catron, Robert Shockley, Judy Friend and Jane Hobbs voting in favor of both measures and Janet Ballard and Angie Corn voting against them.

Before voting on whether or not to move forward with a drug testing policy, Vicki Enyart, high school principal, presented the board with information that was gathered during a public forum held on Sept. 12 as well as the results from a district survey.

In all, the district received over 230 completed surveys. Of the students surveyed, 60 percent of high school students and 68 percent of middle school students said they were in favor of the policy. Surveys returned by parents showed a drug testing policy was supported by 80 percent of them.

"Of the 40 who said 'no,' if you tested everyone, they'd be for it," Enyart said.

She reminded the board that legally the district could only require students involved in extracurricular activities to be tested. Parents would also have the option of voluntarily placing their children in the testing pool.

Enyart said some of the people who spoke at the forum wanted a larger pool of students to be tested. According to the initial plan submitted to the board, the district would test 40 students at the start of the program and then test an additional 10 students every month. At the end of the year, 120 students would have been tested through a random selection process.

"At this point, we would like a vote from the board," Enyart said. "Do you want to pursue this? And if so, we have a lot of work to do. If there's no consensus then there's no point in pursuing it further."

Corn stressed her belief that the district needed to spend its money on drug education rather than drug testing.

"We need to spend our money wisely, educating every child," said Corn.

Friend said adoption of a drug testing policy would send a strong message to the community.

"Our school would become known for higher standards,' Friend said.

"I'd like to commend Vicki and everyone else who has worked on this (policy)," said Hobbs. "Drug prevention is near and dear to my heart as a parent, and as a board, I think it's the way to go."

Dalton also voiced support for the proposal.

"The people I talk to say if it keeps one kid off drugs, it's money well spent, and I have to concur," Dalton said.

Ballard expressed doubts about a drug testing policy.

"The people I talk to don't want us to be so naive to think if we put this in place, suddenly we don't have a drug problem," Ballard said. "We know we have a problem, but how do we want to help these kids."

Enyart concluded the discussion by asking again for the board's support.

"In my profession and my experience, this policy is worth proceeding with," Enyart said.

The motion to pursue a random drug testing policy was made by Friend and seconded by Catron. The motion carried with Friend, Catron, Hobbs, Dalton and Shockley voting "yes" and Ballard and Corn voting "no."

A presentation by Enyart concerning recent problems with enforcing the school's dress code was made to the board. In particular, a large group of students was dressing in complete black attire and seven male students were wearing white makeup. Enyart explained that this trend was referred to as "scary dress."

Enyart said students were questioning her right to enforce the dress code and telling her they had the right of "self expression."

"Every kid that comes to this high school deserves a safe and positive learning environment," said Enyart. "Without a consensus (from the board), we can't enforce this code."

Several teachers also expressed their support for the board reaffirming a tightened dress code.

"This will be my 23rd year at this school district and I've never seen things as bad as they are right now," said John Maddux, math teacher at Southwest High School. "We've got to get something back. It's becoming a distraction from learning and students are afraid of other students."

"We need your help," said Glenda McCullough, high school music teacher. "We stand together as a faculty and we support Vicki."

Board members also heard a presentation at the beginning of the meeting from the Southwest High School Student Cabinet's executive board.

"We are not asking that the board re-write the policies or regulations, but rather that we enforce them with consistency," said Lindsay Oleson. "We just want the best for our school and wish for the students to excel."

Following all input, the board voted 5-2 along the previous voting lines to re-approve the school's dress code.

In other business, the R-V Board:

* Approved a tuition rate of $6,000 for the 2005-06 school year and discussed ongoing efforts to better define the district boundary separating the Southwest and McDonald County school districts.

* Voted to renew the district's contracts with the Southwest Area Career Center for vocational education and with St. John's Hospital for therapy services.

* Voted to employ Kayle Leonhardt as a full-time early childhood/Title I aide.

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