Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2007

USD 232 to seek public input on drug testing

November 21, 2007

When it comes to drugs and alcohol, De Soto USD 232's zero tolerance policy isn't enough, De Soto High School Principal Dave Morford said. Students need another reason to say no to drugs and alcohol.

"We feel that the policy alone has not given the students enough reason to say 'no,'" he said. "In other words, we feel that even though we have a policy in place, it's not being followed."

That's why Morford is part of a committee appointed by the board of education charged with exploring a possible random drug testing policy for high school students.

In June, the school board assigned the committee of administrators, parents, students and others to do research into what other districts with such policies were doing and to get feedback from the community.

Morford said the group has done a lot of research and would seek input from the community next week at two meetings. The discussions will be guided by specific talking points, including the purpose of the meeting, the district's current policy, consequences, cost and implementation.

The district's current zero tolerance policy that is about 12 years old outlines the consequences of what would happen to a student involved in an activity who was caught using drugs or alcohol.

Under the current policy, students have the option to do a one-time self-referral, which would result in a one-week suspension from school-sanctioned activities. Students who are referred by parents, teachers or community members face a one-week suspension from activities and no less than two days of in-school suspension. A second referral results in four weeks suspension from activities and no less than three days of in-school suspension. A student who receives a third referral will be ineligible to participate in activities for the remainder of the school year, must successfully complete a substance abuse program to participate in activities the following year, will have no less than five days of out-of-school suspension and or expulsion and will be suspended from parking privileges for two weeks.

From his talks with students who have been caught, Morford said a random drug testing policy would be more of a deterrent.

"I ask them if a policy like this would have deterred them and most of the responses that I've had just on a personal basis was that yes it would have," he said.

The committee has not decided the details of consequences if a student was found to be using drugs under the possible new policy, but Morford said he suspects they would be similar to what is in place now.

Input from the community will be used to develop a proposal that will be presented to the school board. The board would decide whether or not to implement the policy as well as how much money it would take to fund it.

"Someone may come up with a great idea that is better than what we are doing and we will put that into our consideration before we put that final proposal together for the board," said Mill Valley Principal Joe Novak.

Morford said funding could affect what types of tests are done and how frequently they are performed. If approved, the random drug testing would be implemented by an outside agency only to students who are involved in school activities.

Critics of random drug testing cite questions about its effectiveness, along with privacy issues. Some question whether it is fair.

Novak said he agreed that random drug testing isn't effective if it doesn't get community support. He said the community should be concerned and more aware of what youth are doing.

"Our society is becoming far too permissive," Novak said. "It's almost like you hear more often than not that kids will be kids. That concerns me because our kids are not ready to make those kinds of decisions."

Morford said the committee had court rulings on its side.

"Participating in activities is considered a privilege," he said. "The court said you can test those people."

Community input meetings for the random drug testing committee are:

  • 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at De Soto High School.
  • 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Mill Valley High School

The meetings were named special board of education meetings so that all board members may attend without violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act. No action will be taken at these meetings.

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