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Tyrone Area School Board looking to continue with random drug testing for students in extra-curricular activities

The Tyrone Area School Board met last evening at the elementary school to conduct a work session before its Tuesday, August 19 regular session.
Among the agenda items was a request for board members to enter into a contract with Tyrone Hospital for urine screenings in accordance with the chain-of-custody requirements of the school district at an unspecified collection fee per individual collection, testing, and physician review. An unspecified confirmation fee per individual for each initial positive result would also be a part of the contract.
Last year, the school district spent $1,350 in total on random drug testing.  The collection fee was $30, and the confirmation fee was $35.
If the school board approves the contract, it will be effective for the 2008-09 school year. As a result, all students from seventh to twelfth grades who participate in extra-curricular activities at Tyrone could be subjected to drug testing if randomly selected.
Extra-curricular activities is defined at Tyrone as any student involved in athletics or other voluntary activities, such as band or chorus for example. The district considers participation in these extra-curricular activities as a privilege and to be voluntary to every student. Those participating students are examined by the public, become role models for young children, as well as peers, and are special representatives of the community.
The Tyrone Area School District (TASD) has been randomly drug testing its extra-curricular participating students for the past decade, but due to other activities within the district last year, the testing was only done to 48 students. Out of the 48 tests, there was not one positive test result for drugs or alcohol.
“It will be more comprehensive this year,” said TASD Superintendent Dr. William Miller. “We slacked off a little bit last year with everything else that went on and our attention was diverted to other areas, but this year we’re going to move ahead with it.”
Among the school district’s diversions last year was the well publicized threat of a possible school shooting that required the district to amplify the protection of its students through the use of metal detectors and locker searches. The threat was deemed a rumor, but precautions were taken.
The district’s present drug testing procedure is done randomly through a computer projection of participating extra-curricular student names supervised by the administration, athletic director, and, if available, a school board member. Anywhere from 15 to 18 students could be tested at one time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean all sport-related students will be tested.
Miller feels that the board will adopt the Tyrone Hospital contract for the urine screenings. The cost of the collection fees isn’t an issue, but a matter of defining what the cost will be by next Tuesday.
“We’re going to continue with the random testing and we will be testing more students this year,” stated Miller. “We’re making a statement, if anything else, that we will not condone the students who are using drugs in school.”
The superintendent also said that the district has a separate drug testing policy for those students who school officials feel are under the influence or using a drug in school. That decision might be based on a student’s behavior, and that student would be automatically sent for a drug test.
In recent years, Miller noted that there hasn’t been any situations where the school district had an abundance of students under the influence of drugs, but he still feels that the testing should be continued.
“With my interviews with students, they also expressed that kids weren’t using drugs in school,” said Miller. “What a lot of kids are still doing is using tobacco and spitting – that’s a big thing still – and the use of alcohol is still somewhat prevalent according to student surveys that we have.”
The drug testing is intended to serve as a deterrent to student drug use, according to the school district’s written policy. No academic, legal, or disciplinary action not relevant to the student activities will ensue if a drug test is positive. Documentation of this policy’s infraction will not appear in any student participant’s permanent file. Information pertaining to the drug and alcohol tests will not be disclosed to criminal or juvenile authorities, absent legal compulsion by valid and binding subpoena or legal process, which the district will not solicit.
Every student who participates in extra-curricular activities at Tyrone signs a contract authorizing the district to conduct drug tests each year. Students may not participate in those activities until the contract is signed and filed. All parents are notified of the test results, whether negative or positive.
Disciplinary action is taken by the district if a student tests positive for drugs or alcohol. The first offense results in a suspension from whatever activity the student is involved in until a negative test is given, which is typically administered 15 days after the positive test.
A second offense results in a suspension from participation for a period of 50 percent of all contests or events in which the student participates. Suspension for one calendar year results from a third offense, and a fourth offense bars the student from all athletic and extra-curricular activities for the remainder of the current school term, and the next two school terms.
Board Student Activities and Services Committee Chairperson, Brian Bressler, stated that the district should keep conducting the random drug tests because of the safety issue involved.
“We don’t want somebody to harm themselves, let alone harm another athlete, if they are using drugs,” said Bressler. “That’s a possibility, and that’s the only reason why we want to try to keep the drug testing in – it’s a prevention measure.”
Board President Lee Stover also thinks the drug testing should continue. He said that it aims to help kids stay away from problems, and it keeps the school environment safe.
“It’s a clear message that we’re not going to tolerate this kind of thing,” stated Stover. “We’re going to check for it, and if it surfaces and a student has a problem, the student will be channeled in the right direction to get help.”
Miller added, “We’re making a statement to the students that they’re not going to participate in sports or other activities if they’re using drugs.”
For more information on the Tyrone Area School District’s drug and alcohol testing, visit the district’s website at www.tyrone.k12.pa.us.