Houston Schools considers drug testing

Students participating in extracurricular and co-curricular activities at Houston Schools may be tested for drugs as soon as next school year.

The board of education reviewed a policy at its regular business meeting Monday night that would implement drug testing for all students who play sports or are members of co-curricular groups, such as FFA, choir, band, speech and debate. Superintendent Dr. Dan Vandiver said a vote for implementing the policy would be considered following discussion at the regular January board meeting.

Vandiver said the measure was sparked by concerned students. He estimated that 235 of the school’s 330 high school students participate in at least one activity that would require them to be tested.

“I don’t have any reason to believe that the problem is worse in Houston than anywhere else,” Vandiver said. “But I do think it’s a widespread problem. We’re interested in doing what we can to lessen the problem in our district.”

The policy would test every student who participated in “privileged” activities at the beginning of the school year, Vandiver said. Random testing would follow once a month and cover about 10-15 percent of the students. Reasonable suspicion, based on appearance, speech or behavior, could also result in a drug test.

The tests, which require a urine sample, would be professionally administered by a Springfield company. Positive tests would be forwarded to a laboratory that would use a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry technique for confirmation.

Vandiver said all test results would be confidential. Positive tests would require additional tests at the expense of the student’s family.

First offenses would result in a 21-day suspension. It may be reduced to 10 days if the student provides proof of drug counseling and agrees to a second test. A second offense results in an 18-week suspension, and the third offense leads to dismissal from all activities.

Vandiver said each test costs about $16.25. The school receives Title IV monies that can help cover the expense.

“We hope to eliminate any drug use that is going on among our students,” Vandiver said. “If this gives kids a reason to say no and resist peer pressure, then there is a benefit in just that.”

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