BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — Members of the Davis School Board are looking for input from the public on a proposal to conduct random drug tests in district high schools.
The testing would apply only to students in ninth through 12th grades who voluntarily participate in activities such as athletics, cheerleading and student leadership, according to John Robison, healthy lifestyles supervisor for the district.
The policy, he said, is not of a punitive nature and is not intended to make policemen of school officials.
“It is for the health and safety of students,” he said, as well as for prevention and for intervention, and to ensure those who may be role models set high standards of acceptable behavior in schools.
“It is very clear that there are students out there who are using,” Robison told the board. He said local trainers estimate 60 percent of students use illegal or performance-enhancing drugs.
Neighboring districts that have implemented similar policies have seen a significant drop in the number of students testing positive for drug use, he said.
During the first year in which drug tests were instituted in Ogden and Weber districts, 62 students tested positive, according to Robison. Last year, only four did.
“All said they see a decline in positive tests and beyond a shadow of a doubt, that is because of testing,” said Robison. “I see that as a great success.”
Several board members expressed concern about the wording and the application of the policy.
It was using the term “role models” in relation to the students selected that board member Larry Smith challenged. He also questioned why tests were limited to athletes and student leaders, and did not include those involved in activities such as debate and musical theater.
In talking with students and parents, he said he had learned that role models aren’t necessarily only athletes and student officers.
The proposed random drug testing policy doesn’t impact existing district policy where there is a reasonable suspicion of drug possession, said Michelle Beus, legal issues specialist for the district.
“The police are very good at following up on that,” said Tamara Lowe, board president. “They want that information. Kids can be removed from school and charged.”
As established in the proposed policy, prior to participating in extra-curricular activity, students would receive instruction on the dangers of using illegal and performance-enhancing drugs, intervention and treatment programs available, and the procedures for the testing.
A consent form signed by parents is necessary before students can participate. Activity fees would go up $5 per student to pay for the random tests, and four to five students would be drawn from a random pool at each high school each week for testing.
When a student’s name is drawn, that student would report to a private restroom to provide a urine sample to representatives from a professional laboratory.
The sample would be tested for methamphetamines, cocaine, ecstacy and pharmaceutical-strength steroids, among other drugs.
Positive test readings would result in suspension from games but not practices initially. Students would also receive four counseling sessions. After a clean drug test at the school, the students would be allowed to return.
“We need feedback,” said Lowe, after listening to the board discussion. “We need people in every part of the county to know this is something we’re talking about. We need comments.”
The proposed policy can be reviewed on the district’s website, davis.k12.ut.us. Comments can also be submitted in links from that site.
The policy will be presented to the board for a first reading on March 19, and a final vote is expected on April 16.