Schools step up drug testing www.privateofficer.com
Schools step up drug testing http://www.privateofficer.com
Four Mobile County schools will begin random drug testing for students in August, with all of the system’s other middle and high schools joining in the program in the winter, according to a plan adopted by the school board Tuesday.
The board, meanwhile, put off a decision to revamp LeFlore Preparatory Academy into a magnet school that would offer pre-medicine and pre-law classes until a meeting Monday at 7:30 a.m.
The drug testing program will be piloted in the fall semester at Vigor and Theodore high schools and at Burns and Denton middle schools.
Students who participate in extra-curricular activities — such as sports, band or clubs — will be placed in a pool with students who drive to school and with students whose parents volunteer them for testing.
Schools Superintendent Roy Nichols estimated that about 10 percent of the students from that pool will be asked to submit urine tests each year.
Students with positive results will be suspended from their extra-curricular activity or from driving to school for 30 days. They and their parents will be encouraged to sign up for drug counseling.
Nichols said the purpose of the drug testing is not to play “gotcha.” Rather, he said, it’s to give students an excuse not to use drugs.
For example, he said, a student will be able to tell his peers that he doesn’t want to smoke marijuana be cause he wants to play football.
“It’s a way to protect students by giving them an option to say no,” said board member Ken Megginson.
School officials estimate that drug testing at the first four schools will cost $20,000 and go up to about $50,000 when all schools participate. The Mobile Police Department, Mobile County Sheriff’s Department and Prichard Police Department have agreed to contribute $5,000 apiece for the pilot program.
About 26 percent of Mobile County’s seventh- through 12th-graders have used drugs, according to a recent Alabama Department of Education survey.
Dakota Fox, who just graduated from Midtown Mobile’s Murphy High School, said he doesn’t use drugs, but he knows other students do. Fox, who was honored at the school board meeting for building a Habitat for Humanity house, said he has mixed feelings about the drug testing.
“It’s good that it gives kids an option to say no,” Fox said, “but I don’t think they’ll stop. They’ll find a way to get around it.”
Fox’s classmate Megan Smith, who was also recognized at the meeting for her work with Habit, said the people who participate in extra-curricular activities are not the ones schools should be so worried about.
“We’re the ones less likely to use drugs,” Smith said. “Obviously, we’re motivated by helping our school and helping our community.”
Baldwin County Public Schools and several local private schools test students for drug use, but those programs vary. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public schools can test students that participate in extra-curricular activities.
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