2018-04-14 / News

Lakewood readies random drug testing policy

By Charles Prince

HEBRON – Lakewood School District will have a Random Urine Drug Testing program in place when students return in August for the 2018/19 school year.

Board members unanimously approved the first reading Wednesday night. They also devoted more than two hours at an April 5 workshop meeting to review the policy line by line. The process started last fall, prompted by complaints from parents and students about drug usage at the high school.

High school assistant principal Kevin Krier and athletic director Bo Hanson lead the committee that included administrators, coaches, teachers, parents and a student.

Krier outlined the policy’s evolution Wednesday night. Five districts in Licking County already test students: Granville, Heath, Licking Valley, Newark and Utica. Krier and Hanson meet with Granville and Health, and talked with Licking Valley. Granville’s athletic director had been at Newark when their program started. “We wanted to develop a plan to fit to us,” Krier explained.

A key purpose, he said, is to give our kids a tool to say ‘no.’ The objectives also included:

• A deterrent to student drug use;

• Educate students about the dangers and provide resources to help students with substance abuse problems; and

• Keep our students and community safe.

Krier emphasized that it isn’t a ‘gotcha’ plan. “We want to provide a caught student with the tools to end their usage.”

The planning committee spent two full days (Dec. 5 & 6) meeting with a student focus group to discuss the school climate and issues faced by students. They also had some discussions with student council members on Dec. 8. The group then met twice in December and three times in January for about three hours each time to draft the policy. They meet with three testing labs – each one was already working with a Licking County district.

The rough draft was completed by end of January. It was discussed at community forums on February 5 and 21 and reviewed by the student focus group, student council and National Honor Society in February.

The new policy will stand on its own. It doesn’t replace other student or athlete codes of conduct. Students will not be penalized academically for testing positive nor will they be suspended or expelled.

The new policy will apply to students in grades 7-12 who are required to have a parking permit or participate in a competitive extracurricular activity. Students participating in the following activities will be in the testing pool: baseball, basketball, bowling (boys & girls), cheerleading, cross country (boys & girls), drum major, fall drama, flag corps, football, golf (boys & girls), junior class officers, Quiz Bowl, robotics, senor class officers, soccer (boys & girls), softball, spring musical, student council, student drivers, swimming (boys & girls), track & field (boys & girls), volleyball and wrestling.

Students participating in band and chorus will not be in the pool because they receive a grade for those activities. “You can’t test a student if they are getting a grade,” Superintendent Mary Kay Andrews explained.

It is estimated some 430 - 450 students will be in the testing pool or nearly 50 percent of the students in grades 7 - 12. Krier expects that probably 90 percent of the students in the pool will be tested at some point.

Krier said the district plans to test 50 students per month – 25 every two weeks for a total of 500 tests per school year. Testing would start in September.

Krier said the committee selected Sport Safe Testing Service, Inc. of Powell as their contractor. Co-ower Chris Franz was present Wednesday night. He said the firm was started by his father in 1996 after a local child at a high school in Powell, was murdered over a $50 drug deal. Dr. Joseph Franz, the school’s sports physician, started the business shortly after this tragedy and made it his mission to help keep kids off of drugs. Sport Safe now works with more than 100 school districts nationwide.

Chris Franz emphasized there are “no observed samples.” The lab never gets a student name, just a number. Students witness the sample being split into two and initial the seals. Franz said the majority of the collectors are female.

At the beginning of each school year or season, students and their parent/guardian/custodian would have to sign the drug testing informed consent agreement before they could receive a parking permit or participate in a listed activity. “Once you are in the pool, you’re in for the year,” Hanson explained at the board workshop session. That’s a calendar year, he later clarified.

Samples will be collected at the respective schools - middle or high school. School staff will not be involved in the collection. Sample collection will not be observed, but the collection cups will report the sample’s temperature and toilet bowl water will be dyed before collection.

If a student randomly selected for testing is not in school on the test date, they will be tested on the next test date. Students unable to provide a sample will first be sent to the back of the line to try again. If still unable, students will not be allowed to participate or park until a proper sample is provided.

The drug classes and substances are “considered illegal/ illicit or banned” for Lakewood students are:

Alcohol, Amphetamines, Anabolic Steroids, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Cocaine Metabolites, LSD, Marijuana Metabolities, Methadone, MDMA (Ecstasy), Nicotine, OPiates, Phencyclidine, Propoxyphene and Synthetic Drugs.

The vendor will provide Medical Review Officer (MRO) services by a licensed physician who has a MRO certification. The MRO will certify all screens as negative or positive. Positive results will be reported by telephone in a confidential manner to the parent and then to the district’s designated official. If a positive result could be linked to a prescription medication, the MRO will contact the parent and provide up to five working days for them to obtain a letter from the student’s prescribing physician to document the medications being taken. If that information isn’t provided, it will be considered a positive result.

If a student refuses a test, the sample is adulterated, or tests positive, the parent will be notified first, then the building administrator, student, athletic director and the head coach/advisor of any covered activity.

For the first violation, the student can chose not to park or participate in covered activities for one calendar year or meet with a certified chemical dependency counselor for a chemical dependency assessment and then follow the counselor’s recommendations. The parent is responsible for all counseling expenses and providing documentation that the recommendations have been completed.

Students successfully completing the recommendations will lose a minimum of 25 percent of the season or 45 school days for non-athletic covered activities or parking. That 25 percent season ban will be applied to the next season if necessary. “The student may continue to practice with the team and sit with the team during home and away contests. The student may not wear a team uniform during this denial of participation.”

A 45-day ban will also roll over to the next school year if needed. “The student may not attend club meetings and or participate in off campus trips or special events.” If it is a performance related activity, the student may continue to practice/rehearse but not perform during the 45 days.

“In order for participation and privileges to be reinstated after the 25 percent penalty, the student must agree to submit to 5 followup drug tests within 6 months at no cost to the District.”

After a second violation, the student can accept either a permanent denial of participation during the rest of their time at Lakewood or a 50 percent season or 90 day participation ban after completing the recommendations of a certified chemical dependency counselor. The same carryover provisions and participation limits for the 25 percent ban apply for the 50 percent ban.

Violations are cumulative during a student’s school career. A third violation is permanent denial for any covered activities and parking.

A student can turn themselves in – ‘self referral’ – once in six years. It must happen before the student is selected for a test. There are no bans for a selfreferral provided the student completes a drug assessment and counseling program , and agrees to five follow-up tests within six months at no cost to the district. If one of those tests is positive, the student is subject to first-time violation consequences.

Neither Krier nor board members discussed the program’s costs Wednesday night. However, district treasurer Glenna Plaisted raised the issue at the workshop session.

The 500 tests per year are expected to cost $15,000. “I don’t think we should pay for the whole thing,” Plaisted said. She suggested increasing the parking fee which is currently $5 per year or $10 if paid late to a $20 one-time fee per year fee for parking and all covered extracurricular activities. A student would only pay the fee once a year. No decisions were made during the workshop session.

Board members are expected to approve the second and final reading at their May meeting. The new policy could be revised before that final vote. The May board meeting has been pushed back to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Mary 23, in the high school library.

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