R-4 Board reviews drug testing policy revisions

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cassville High School Principal Chris Redmon presented R-4 School Board members with a proposal for revisions to the district's drug testing policy at the board's November meeting. The board is currently reviewing the proposed changes.

"We are asking the board to increase the things that we are testing for," said Redmon. "We have had a higher number of drug offenses this year. We are not nervous, but cognizant, of the large amount of kids who are using at school and foolish enough about how they are doing it that they are easy to catch.

"We have a large number of younger kids who are doing this," said Redmon. "Most of the kids we have caught, we have pretty much known they were using."

High school and middle school officials have also become aware that the type of drug test used by the district does not cover all of the drugs that teens are currently abusing.

"Prescription medications that many teens are using today are not covered by our current tests," said Redmon. "We would like to increase our screenings so that drug testing is more of a deterrent for students.

"We have had students who we have tested and they appeared nervous during the test, but the test comes out clean," said Redmon. "It doesn't help as a deterrent unless they know that they are going to get caught and that something will be taken away that they enjoy."

The R-4 District currently uses a four-panel test that covers cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamine and methamphetamine. Opiates include morphine, codeine, hydrocodone and hydromorphone.

The district conducts 16 tests per year. A faculty member, five middle school students and 15 high school students are randomly selected for each test.

The district's current drug testing program costs $5,460 per year.

Redmon has recommended that the district begin using a 12-panel test, which will screen for several drugs in addition to those covered by the four-panel test.

Other drugs covered by the 12-panel screening include: phencyclidine or PCP; benzodiazepines, such as Valium or Xanax; barbiturates; oxycodone, such as Percodan, Percocet and Oxycontin; methadone; propoxyphene, a synthetic opiate; and methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as Ecstasy.

The proposed policy revision will also increase the number of high school students who are randomly selected for each test from 15 to 20 and the number of tests conducted each year from 16 to 20.

"We would also like to add an additional screening that is quite pricey, which would test for synthetic drugs," said Redmon. Synthetic drugs mimic marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy and are often packaged as incense or bath salts.

"Not a lot of our kids are doing these because they are scared, but we would like to mix in that test periodically," continued Redmond. "We are scared that one of these kids will one day take one of those drugs and kill themselves just because they don't know what they are doing," said Redmon.

The drug testing program proposed by Redmon would cost the district $11,310 per year, which is an increase of $5,850 per year.

"Part of our prevention plan is also education," Redmon said. "We plan to have a guest speaker in this year to give a motivational program.

"Coy Dalton (high school assistant principal) talked with the kids before they left for Thanksgiving break," said Redmon. "He was pretty honest too. We would rather be proactive than reactive, but we have been surprised by the number of things that have happened this year, and right now we need to be reactive."

Currently, 85 percent of Cassville High School students take part in the district's drug testing pool. All students involved in extracurricular activities are required to take part in the program, but many students have been added to the pool voluntarily by parents, said Redmon.

"We have good participation," said Redmon. "There are not many of our kids who don't take part in the program. I think we have done a good job of promoting it to parents."

If the district receives a positive result from a test conducted at the school, the test sample is forwarded to a lab to confirm the results, said Redmon. After the results are confirmed, district officials schedule discussions with both the student and the parents.

A first offense results in suspension from half of the contests during the competitive activity season the student is currently or planning to participate in. The length of suspension can be reduced if the student voluntarily seeks at least five hours of drug and alcohol abuse counseling.

A second offense results in suspension from all competitive activities for one full year. The length of suspension can be reduced if the student voluntarily seeks at least 15 hours of counseling.

Students who are suspended from activities are required to pass a drug test prior to resuming participation.

If a student tests positive three times, they are permanently suspended from all competitive activities for the remainder of their high school career at the R-4 District.

"Our policy is not a disciplinary based policy," said Redmon. "This is about getting help for these students. We think that these changes will give us a better avenue to help the kids with what they are doing today."

The board is currently reviewing the proposed changes. A decision could be made at the next meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15.

In other business, the Cassville R-4 School Board:

* Heard administrative reports.

* Hired Sheila Burr as a part-time cook and Teresa Alverson, Matt Boles, John Cook, Cynthia Harvey, Kyle Mattingly, Amanda Ray, Cassi Roller and Kristine Samuel as substitute teachers.

* Set the board candidate filing dates from Dec. 13 to Jan. 17, 2012.

* Approved the 2010-11 school year audit report.

* Discussed the district's investments and capital project committee.

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