Wolf Creek tables student drug tests

WATERFORD — The Wolf Creek Local Schools Board of Education Monday night tabled a proposal for student drug-testing after a lengthy discussion about the language of the proposed policy and questions about whether the community had been given adequate opportunity to weigh in on it.

The proposed policy was similar to those passed recently by neighboring districts Fort Frye and Warren, providing for random drug-testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities.

“I have questions about this,” board member Roger Doak said, and held up a booklet by Great Lakes Biomedical, the company that would be conducting the tests. “This is a sales booklet for the company; it’s (the policy) their phraseology. I’m not ready to vote for this.”

Doak said he isn’t opposed to drug testing in principle.

“I have no doubt we could pass it; the courts have said we can, as an exception to the Fourth Amendment … a commitment to getting drugs out of schools is certainly what we want, but our policy is coming out of that sales brochure,” he said.

Doak, noting that people he had talked to in the community also had concerns about the policy, raised questions about the usefulness of punitive actions, including benching athletes and imposing community service. Even though the policy specifically excludes expulsion, suspension or academic penalties, “we don’t know how kids will react” to a positive drug test, he said, and the prospect of being subjected to tests might deter students from entering programs.

In doing research on the issue, he said, the assessment of the impact is “vastly mixed,” with some authorities saying it makes a difference, and others who don’t.

“In high schools, 30 percent nationally have this,” he said. “I’d like for us to know why the other 70 percent don’t, and it’s almost nonexistent in colleges except NCAA athletics.”

And although teacher groups nearly always advocate for any policies that are shown to improve academics, none he could find have come out in favor of drug testing, he said.

“I haven’t found one article that says this helps in the classroom, or that teachers are advocating for it. If there was such a benefit, I would think there would be some discussion among teachers and among teachers unions, but I have not seen that,” he said. “There might be some, but I haven’t seen them.’

Doak also noted the drugs for which students would be tested, which along with metabolites of opioids and THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – included tranquilizers, nicotine and alcohol.

“There are a lot of things on here to treat ADD and ADHD (attention deficit and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders). I have a problem with clarity in this, and maybe I’m looking at it more critically than I should … but there is a list of schools on the back here, how many tests have they processed, how many positives did they get, and for what?

“I will follow this when I am comfortable with it, and I’m not now. I’m not against drug testing, but I want to get into it knowing what it’s for, and why we’re doing it,” he said.

Board members Scott Lang and Jerry Barnett also raised concerns.

“I like the policy. I don’t like this document,” Lang said.

“I’ve been in favor of this, but if Roger has these feelings, I’d postpone it and look at things instead of ramming things through,” Barnett said.

The board agreed unanimously to table the document until the July board meeting. Superintendent Doug Baldwin asked the board to submit their concerns and suggestions to him over the next few days so he could make adjustments in consultation with Great Lakes, which he said has the expertise to assist in revisions.

Doak noted that Wolf Creek might watch what happens in districts that have adopted policies. Lang suggested the opt-in portion of the policy – allowing students to voluntary become part of the random-testing pool – could be implemented immediately as a pilot group, with the mandatory randomized testing for all extracurriculars to be delayed for a year.

In other business, the board:

¯ Received notice of the retirement of music teacher Jocelyn Majoy and approved hiring of her replacement, Angela Riser

¯ Received the resignation of athletic director Raymond Costa, and was notified by Superintendent Doug Baldwin that he was reviewing at least 10 applicants for the position.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. July 20 in the Waterford High School library.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com