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Drug Policy Draft Released

Herb Fellow

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HUNTINGTON -- The biggest surprise in the first draft of the Cabell County Schools Student Drug Testing Policy was the inclusion of performance-enhancing drugs.

Tests for those drugs, commonly referred to as steroids, are nearly three times as expensive as the estimated $35 test for marijuana and other illegal drugs. But the authors of the policy -- Superintendent William Smith, Assistant Superintendent Judy Forbush and Administrative Assistant over Secondary Schools Todd Alexander -- said they aren't sure if the language will stay.

"Right now, we just want to leave our options open," Forbush said. "We wanted to make it pretty comprehensive."

Alexander is actively seeking the best prices for drug tests, but admitted the county may not be able to afford to test for performance-enhancing drugs.

"I doubt we'll be able to afford to keep it," he said, adding that it would have to be randomly tested for within the random sample to keep costs down. "Some school boards just throw it in once in a while."

The other monetary concern is the opt-in clause. This would allow parents of students who are not participants in interscholastic extra-curricular activities or those who drive to school to be opted into the random pool.

To this point, Forbush said, they have no idea whether they'll get 50 or 1,000 students opted in by their parents. If it's closer to the latter, she said they'll have to come up with a contingency plan.

"We may ask parents who opt their kids in to pay for the tests," Alexander said as one option. "And we'd offer a waiver to families who can't afford it."

He also said if the performance-enhancing drug testing is left in the policy and a student that has been opted in is chosen to be randomly tested for those drugs as well, parents would not be asked to pay for the more expensive test.

Overall, Forbush and Alexander believe they have a well-developed policy, with much of it borrowed from two other West Virginia counties that currently have drug-testing policies, Braxton and Calhoun.

One of their main concerns was confidentiality, which also was expressed by school board member Greg Borowski at Tuesday's board meeting. But if a student does fail a drug test, and the sample is confirmed by a second test, the consequences are such that the only way anyone would find out was if the student who failed the test told their friends.

The first draft of the policy states a first offense would require a call to a parent or guardian and a private conference. In order to continue participation in school activities, the student and parent/guardian would have to show within five school days proof that the student has received drug counseling from a qualified drug treatment program or counseling entity. Additionally, the student must voluntarily submit to a second drug test within two weeks.

"The focus is on providing resources (rather than punishment)," Forbush said.

Only if the student fails a second test would he or she be suspended from activities for 14 calendar days and be required to complete four hours of substance abuse education and counseling provided by the school. The student also would be randomly tested on a monthly basis for the rest of the school year.

A third offense would require a suspension of activities for the remainder of the school year or 90 days, whichever is longer.

For driving students who fail drug tests, the policy states, "Driving privileges will be immediately suspended until the parent or guardian submits proof that the student has received drug counseling from a qualified drug treatment program or counseling entity." The also would be required to submit to a second drug test within two weeks.

"I want (parents and students) to approach (the policy) from the viewpoint that we're trying to help," Alexander said. "We're not trying to step into people's personal lives."

Alexander said there are many employees, including himself, in Cabell County Schools who have children that would end up in the random pool. And he said as a parent, he's in support of this policy.

To review a complete copy of the drug testing policy, visit CABELL COUNTY SCHOOLS - DEDICATED TO THE SUCCESS OF EVERY STUDENT and click on proposed board policies. There also is a link there to submit feedback and ask questions.

The policy will be up for discussion at the Jan. 8 Board of Education meeting, where public comment and questions will be welcomed. Forbush said a vote on the policy could come as early as the first meeting in February.

Source: The Herald Dispatch, Huntington, WV
Copyright: 2007 Herald Dispatch
Contact: Bill Rosenberger
Website: Drug policy draft released - Huntington, WV -- The Herald-Dispatch
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