2007-02-17 / News

Liberty Union taking another look at drug testing

By Charles Prince

BALTIMORE - Liberty Union-Thurston School Board members are taking another look at a student athlete drug testing program.

The district had a random testing program for three years, but dropped it several years ago for financial reasons. Random testing costs about $6-7,000 a year. Superintendent Paul Mathews said that program found about four or fiveathletes using prohibited substances.

Coaches support a testing program, Mathews told board memb e r s Mo n d a y n i g h t . "Anything to provide an incentive for kids to 'say no,'" he added. "This is a pretty good deterrent for marijuana," Mathews said. However, it is very difficultto detect alcohol use, which might mean more athletes would use alcohol.

Two hundred students in the high school were polled about resuming drug testing. Eightynine agreed that it would reduce substance abuse, while 111 didn't think it would have an impact. It would be more effective, with 115 students in agreement, if all student athletes were tested at the beginning of the season and subject to random testing thereafter. Eighty-fivestudents still thought it wouldn't reduce substance abuse. Most students, 125 of the 140 responding to this question, thought parents would support a drug testing program. Students were split 50:50 on whether they thought parents would be willing to pay an additional $25 a season for a mandatory program.

Mathews said cost, based on two quotes, would be $28.50 to $29.00 for a nine-panel screen. One company offered instant results with laboratory rechecks for any positives, while the other sends all samples to a lab. The cost for mandatory tests at the beginning of each season would be nearly $13,000 based on last year's 435 student athletes which includes a number of students playing more than one sport.

"Is it a school responsibility or a parental responsibility?" Board president Joe Farmer asked. Member John Hutton thought it's another example of parents turning over their responsibilities to the schools.

Mathews said board members need to make a decision by their May meeting. He will solicit more parental input by putting a survey form in the next district newsletter. Comments will also be sought on the district's website.

F a rme r s a i d t h e k e y considerations are the cost and whether parents will support a testing program and help pay for it.

Members also reviewed revisions to nine other district policies and will take final action on them at their March meeting. The most significant changes are:

+ Interscholastic extracurricular eligibility: The grade point average (gpa) for ninth graders would be increased from 1.5 to 1.75. The gpa for grades 10-12 would increase from 1.75 to 2.0.

+ Smoking: "Smoking" is changed to "tobacco use" to include smokeless tobacco. Currently smoking is prohibited in district buildings and vehicles. The revised policy would prohibit tobacco use on school property where student activities are taking place. Staff members could still smoke outside in designated areas, but the broader prohibtion would cover the stadium and athletic fields during practices or contests.

+ Community use of school facilities: Requests to use district techology equipment will require the approval of the technology coordinator and an hourly fee may be charged so a technology employee is present to operate the equipment. A current requirement that any use of school equipment, grounds and buildings on Sundays be "in the interest of District residents" will be removed. It will be replaced by a statement prohibiting the use of athletic fields and courts until 1 p.m. on Sundays.

+ Graduation requirements: Reduce the requirement for American Government and Economics from one credit (full year) each to one-half credit (half year) each to align with the Ohio Core requirements.

In other business Monday night, board members approved supplemental contracts for Matt Friesner as varsity assistant track coach and Terry Moorman as junior varsity softball coach. Moorman's contract is contingent upon having enough players. There wasn't a JV team last year. Board members approved a request for the high school cross country teams to have a camp July 30-August 4 at Hocking Hills State Park. The cost is paid by parents and the proceeds from the Baltimore 5K Run.

Board members also honored the two high school students of the month. They are sophomores Kylienne Clark and Kristin Parrish. Each was nominated by a teacher for the honor. Debbie Howdyshell, a fifth-grade teacher, was selected by her fellow teacher as the teacher-of-the-month.

Board members concluded the public portion of the meeting by entering into executive session to complete the evaluation of the superintendent. The board's next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, March 12 in the high school library.

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