SW hosts drug testing forum

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Southwest R-V School District will hold its final public forum on a proposed drug testing policy on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. in the high school commons area. The purpose of the meeting is to answer questions and concerns about the proposed policy and explain the intended goal of the policy and why it is needed.

As written in the proposed policy, the stated goal and objective of initiating a student drug testing program at Southwest is to promote a school environment that encourages students to resist peer pressure and to create an educational atmosphere giving students freedom from the use of drugs and alcohol.

"Today's young adults live with more gray lines regarding acceptable social behavior than ever before," said Vicki Enyart, Southwest High School principal. "If, by way of this policy, we help make that line a little clearer for just one student, the policy has worked."

The policy in its final draft form states the following: "Students who represent the district in extracurricular activities are leaders in the school environment. Partici-pation in these extracurricular activities is a privilege and not a right, and it is essential that these student leaders uphold the highest possible standards of conduct as role models for the rest of the student body and as representatives of their school and community."

If adopted, students and parents would have to sign a drug testing consent form before the student would be allowed to participate in a competitive activity. If a student did not sign the form, they would be prohibited from participating in competitive activities during the school year.

If a student were to sign the consent form after the deadline date of two weeks after enrollment at the start of the school year, they would not be allowed to participate in the first one-third of the competitive activity season.

Students who sign the consent forms will be assigned a random number for testing purposes, which protects the individual's privacy. The selection procedure will be conducted randomly by laboratory testing personnel.

Each quarter during the school year, approximately 10 percent of all participants in the program will be tested. The testing will be done using a urine specimen.

The consequences of testing positive for drugs are laid out clearly in Southwest's proposed plan.

The first time a student tests positive, they will be required to meet with a certified chemical dependency counselor for at least four counseling appoint-ments and a chemical depen-dency assessment. The student would not be eligible to participate in a competitive activity until all counseling sessions are finished and all counseling requirements fulfilled.

The student would then be required to submit to three random urine tests over the next year. If a student failed to comply with any of the conditions of the policy, they would not be able to compete for a period of one year.

If a student receives a second positive result, they would be immediately ineligible to compete for 270 days. A third positive result would bring about a 730-day ineligibility. Any student suspended from a competitive activity because of a positive drug test will be required to pass a district-administered drug test before being eligible to participateagain.

The drug testing policy carries no academic penalties, and all results and the accompanying consequences can be appealed to the superintendent and school board.

Next Tuesday's forum will be the last opportunity for community input before the final draft of the policy is presented to the Southwest School Board on Feb. 9.

The district has been investigating the possibility of enacting a random drug testing policy for its students since August of 2005. This policy would potentially affect seventh through 12th grade students who are involved in extracurricular activities.

Over the past five months, school officials have been gathering information on the drug testing issue and this data has been reviewed and analyzed. The proposal has also been scrutinized by Ransom Ellis, the district's attorney.

The public forum on Feb. 7 will be the second sponsored by the district. The first forum, held on Sept. 12, 2005, was attended by about 19 individuals, according to Enyart.

"We're hoping the turnout for this forum will be bigger and better," said Enyart.

In addition to hosting two forums, the district also sent out surveys to students and parents. Of the surveys distributed, 94 percent of high school students, 82.9 percent of middle school students and 49.7 percent of middle school and high school parents returned their surveys.

Based on the completed surveys, 80 percent of parents support implementation of a random drug testing policy. The student response was a little different with 57 percent of high school students and 68 percent of middle school students supporting the policy.

Several different individuals have been involved in the process of drafting a drug-testing policy for the R-V District. Members of the High School Professional Learning Community who have worked on the proposed policy include Laurence Bryan, Janeth Henbest, Sam Bennion, Steve Voyak and Janice Love.

The policy has also been researched by the Drug Policy Board, which includes Janet Ballard, Danny Dalton, Jane Hobbs, Michelle Paul and Kristy Tate, along with Enyart and Ben Abramovitz, Southwest Middle School principal.

The forum is open to all students, parents and patrons of the district. Copies of the drug policy proposal are available in the Southwest High School office. For more information, call the office at 826-5413.

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