ORRICK – A crowd of 30 people attended the Orrick R-XI Board of Education public forum on drug testing of students last night at the high school library.
The purpose of the forum was to discuss and explain the proposed drug testing policy for the students in grades 7-12 that wish to participate in extra curricular activities, as well as any student that wishes to be included in the random drug testing pool. Extra curricular activities are activities, such as sports or cheerleading, in which a student participates but does not receive a grade.
Board President Karla Waters opened the meeting by explaining that this meeting was not to set an immediate policy, but rather to gain input from the patrons.
“This is not anything that is set in stone,” she stated to the crowd. “The reason for this proposed policy is not to catch someone but to insure student success and safety. Students often get pressure from their peers and we want to help them and let them know they can succeed. If we never have a positive drug test, we’re happy.”
Superintendent Dr. Marcus Stucker reiterated Waters’ comments. He said testing was not a way to “catch” students but to protect them. He also said that if students did test positive, they would not be turned over the law enforcement, but parents would be notified and given access of state-approved drug counseling services through the school counselor.
Stucker said that the situation was completely separate from disciplinary actions if a student came to school obviously under the effects of drugs and alcohol.
Stucker then told the audience that each person that signed in to speak would be given three minutes. If they had more questions after that time, they could be addressed after everyone had the opportunity to speak.
Jim Eubank told the board, after listening to some of the students who would be affected, they felt as if they were being picked on by having to undergo this random sampling and being required to do so in order to participate in extra curricular activities. He stated that in his opinion, the kids that would be more likely to abuse illegal substances were those students that were not participating in the extra curricular activities.
“Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not being adversarial. I’m in favor of the testing. I just feel you are not touching the kids that would be involved in illegal drug use. The kids think they are being picked on. You aren’t touching the problem.”
Board member Art Endsley responded by saying, “Jim, I feel we are touching the problem. We are taking steps to attack the problem. Approximately 90 kids out of an enrollment of 213 will be affected by it.”
Board President Karla Waters added, “As an elected board, we are required to offer a free and public education to all students. We are not bound by law to allow to let them participate in extra curricular activities if they are taking illegal substances. We’re getting kids ready for success even if it does take an athlete off the team.”
“We (the school) can be the scapegoat and put the blame on us. The students then won’t have to accept the peer pressure. Other districts that I have talked with feel that this program has been successful,” said Principal Brock Dover.
LeAnne Jones asked Dover how many districts in Orrick’s conference were involved in drug testing. Dover replied, “We are leading the pack. None of the other districts in our conference are doing this yet.”
Jennifer Jennings was one of the last to address the board. “I appreciate so much your concern for all of us and hopefully we can have some other forums in the future. It says a lot about the school board with your willingness to do this.”
An orientation on the policy would be part of the school’s open house on Aug. 11, Stucker said. Students would have until the Tuesday after Labor Day to participate by having their name in the drug testing pool. He stated that students that transferred into the district would have 10 days after they enrolled to get their name included if they so desired to participate.
Some points of the policy include:
• Enrollment forms for the drug testing pool would be included in the student’s enrollment packet. Forms need to be signed by both parents.
• The policy would be part of the school handbook.
• For students not participating in extra curricular activities, the deterrent would be knowing if they were selected and tested positive, their parents would be notified.
• If a student decides to withdraw their name from the program, they would be ineligible to participate in extra curricular activities for 365 calendar days.
• If the result was negative, that would conclude that student’s portion of the sample for that testing period. If the result came back positive, it would be reviewed by a medical review officer (a physician) to make certain it was not a false positive. Parents could also request an independent analysis from which they would be monetarily responsible.
• The percentage of randomly selected students would be approximately 5 percent or 6 students. If a student did test positive, he or she would continue to be tested.
• The funding for the testing would be figured into the budget and would cost approximately $2,500 for the entire year’s samples unless other testing were to be required.
High School Principal Brock Dover said 75 schools statewide used the Employee Screening Services Company, and various schools he had spoken with had nothing but praise for the company and their professionalism. Board member Jason Lafferty said that he would prefer to have a school official such as a teacher or administrator accompany the student with the technician while the procedure was being completed.
Stucker agreed with Lafferty’s suggestion.
Photo: Left to right: High School Principal Brock Dover, Superintendent Dr. Marcus Stucker, Board President Karla Waters, Board members, Tim Twyman, Karen McGlothlin, Art Endsley, and Jason Lafferty conduct a public hearing on a drug testing policy for students yesterday at the Orrick school library. Board Member Marvin Griffin was unable to attend but was listening in via a conference call. (Linda Brookshier photo)