Julia Roberts Goad
A committee of the Mingo County Board of Education that is working toward implementing a drug testing policy for students met and heard from a representative of a company that administers drug testing programs.
The BOE began looking at implementing a drug testing policy earlier in the year with input from the STOP Coalition, a drug abuse education facility based in Gilbert.
Although Mingo does not currently drug screen students, other area school systems, such as Pike and Logan Counties, have a drug testing policy in place. The BOE has looked at policies of other districts to begin to write a policy of its own.
On hand for the committee were several administrators and educators from various Mingo schools as well as Chris Franz of Sport Safe Testing Service.
Franz said his company was started by his father, who was a high school team physician. One of the team’s players was shot and killed in a drug deal, which spurred Franz to get involved. He authored a drug testing policy that made it to the Supreme Court. He eventually started the company, and now the company works with school districts across the country. His company has worked with Jackson, Putnam and Cabell Counties in West Virginia.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public school systems can test students who participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports or band. Using other districts’ policies, the Mingo BOE is crafting a policy that will make student athletes eligible for random drug testing, as well as those who drive to school. Testing of students who are in career and technical programs (CTE) such as welding, ProStart culinary and restaurant training and carpentry is also under consideration.
Dreama Dempsey with the BOE said Mingo’s drug testing policy would not be punitive.
“We will not be trapping or punishing students who test positive,” Dempsey said. “We, under the law, cannot let the procedure affect them academically. We want to deter drug use. We will give students the information and education they need.”
Franz presented different types of tests that can be used to screen for drugs, including a urine screen, saliva swab and hair sample. Costs of these test can vary from as little as $3 to as much as $29. Most tests screen for nine drugs, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, methadone, opiate, phencyclidine, propoxyphene, and alcohol.
But, he said, the key to ensuring accuracy to any testing to to eliminate, as much as possible, human error.
“Once a student’s screen comes up positive, that test goes straight to a lab,” Franz said. “There are two samples taken, and one is kept in case future tests are needed. But, with a lab, there is no question of an error.”
He said the next step in the process, if that sample does show drug use, is review by a medical review officer, who can determine whether the student was using a drug that has been prescribed for him, or factor in other circumstances.
Then the company contacts the parents, then the school system.
He said Sport Safe has safeguards to prevent compromise of the entire process, including the way students are chosen for testing, how the school is notified when testing will take place, and ways of avoiding substitution, in which a substance is used for a test other than the student’s urine.
Some districts choose to lower the cost of testing by using their own personnel, such as a school nurse, for collection instead of having Sport Safe collectors conduct the screening.
When that is the case, the company trains the collectors.
Members of the BOE had concerns such as how to include CTE students in the pool of those screened, whether students who were 18 years old would have to have parental consent to undergo a drug screen and what process Franz recommended for those who tested positive.
Franz gave the committee a sample of a drug testing policy that has been used in a different district. He suggested the BOE consider some of the aspects of that plan when they write their own.
Dempsey said the committee is taking the information presented by Franz under consideration, and will meet again in May. She said the Board plans to have a policy in place by the beginning of the fall athletic season, in August 2013.