First reading of proposed drug testing policy for Ennis Schools
The Ennis School Board held the first official reading of the student drug testing policy during their March 21 meeting. The board must hold three public hearings before the policy can be adopted.
Superintendent Casey Klasna has been working toward drafting a policy since late last year, after first bringing it to the board.
Big Sandy Superintendent of Schools Brad Moore gave a presentation to the board last November on how his school had implemented a drug testing policy for students. Moore reported Big Sandy held six informational meetings on the proposed policy and saw no backlash from the community. Moore said Big Sandy school officials implemented the policy after several teachers and coaches had concerns about their students. The policy briefly impacted the school’s basketball program during its first year, but those impacts waned.
Klasna said he has yet to hear any negative feedback about the proposed policy.
Throughout this process, Klasna said a student drug testing policy might offer students an out, or a reason to say no, or potentially ward off a bigger problem. Klasna formed a committee to review and draft a policy, which he then presented at the first reading. “The purpose of this program is to educate and help direct students away from drug and alcohol abuse and toward healthy and drug-free participation,” states the draft. “Participation in extra-curricular/co-curricular activities is not an absolute right. Rather, it is a privilege offered to all students who are eligible. Thus, activity students voluntarily subject themselves to a higher degree of accountability and regulation than commonly imposed on students. The Ennis School District believes accountability is a powerful tool to help students avoid using illegal drugs and that early detection and intervention can save lives.”
Klasna said the program would include students involved in extra-curricular/co-curricular activities, grades 6-12, and students would need to declare what activities they wish to participate in at the beginning of the year. “The committee talked about whether to include the junior high students and we kept with the justification that that’s when a lot of kids start experimenting, unfortunately,” said Klasna.
According to the draft, testing will be selected at random, and all students within the testing consent pool are subject to testing on a periodic basis. Once a student declares an activity, they remain in the testing consent pool through the duration of that activity season. Testing would occur throughout school calendar days without any notice or early warning. Students can be tested through random selection, through a mandatory follow-up, if their parent or guardian requests a test, or if there is reasonable suspicion of illegal drug or alcohol use.
Samples may be collected however the district chooses – either through a fresh urine sample, saliva or breath, or another district-approved laboratory sample.
Klasna said the district would hire an outside company to conduct the tests and that the district would foot the bill for the testing until a positive test arrives. “That was one thing the committee talked about is when does this become the responsibility of the parent?” said Klasna. “If a student is randomly tested and comes back with a positive test, they are no longer random after that and must be tested every time at the expense of the parent.”
Klasna also said the committee discussed the probability of a late signup for an activity – if they had not decided to participate in track until early spring, they could still sign up for the sport, undergo mandatory testing for being a late sign up, and the district would cover the testing costs. Klasna estimates costs for the student drug testing policy could range around $15,000.
Violations for a positive test would result in staggering levels of suspension from activities, dependent on number of violations, as well as obtaining professional help from a counselor and chemical awareness coursework or programs.
Ennis Chief of Police John Moore offered some ideas for the board regarding how to handle student violations. “In the court system, we send folks to a counselor, which they pay for, and the counselor then decides if they need help from an addiction program.”
Moore said the board should look at lessening some of the suspension time and consider counseling. “Because a lot of the kids, that I see at least, all they have is sports and activities – they don’t have a great home life,” he said. “If you take away that activity, they’re going to be back out on the street with nothing to do. I think counseling is a really good idea and my recommendation would be to send them to a counselor and then let the counselor decide whether they need to move on to an addiction program.”
The board will continue to evaluate and make changes to the policy throughout the next public hearings before adopting the policy.
The board approved running a general fun levy for $79,968 at the recommendation of Klasna. “If you remember, last year we did not run a general fund levy because of the law change with permissive levies and it was just a confusing time for voters last year,” said Klasna. “If you look at our preliminary data sheets we need a levy of $79,968 to get to our max budget and that’s something I feel the board should approve so we can continue to run our school and programs well. It’s critical that we operate at our max budget.” The levy would tax $1.10 on a $100,000 home and $2.21 for a $200,000 home.