Orange School Board Passes New Drug Testing Policy
The Orange County School Board voted to approve a program that will randomly drug test students participating in extracurricular activities.
The school board approved the program – which includes sports, band and other activities – in a 4-to-1 vote Monday night. Administrators say the new policy is all about prevention.
"I don't think Orange County has any bigger problem than any other community; I think we're just trying to address it," said Judy Carter, the school board chair.
The new process outlines four tiers of consequences for students who test positive for alcohol, unauthorized drugs or illegal drugs. The first time a student tests positive, he or she is suspended from 20 percent of contests or activities and placed in a drug education and prevention program. The second time a student tests positive, the consequence increases to suspension from 50 percent of contests or activities, and the student is put in a more intense prevention program. On the third offense, the student is suspended from contests or activities for a whole school year and is placed in another prevention program. The fourth offense means suspension from contests or activities for the rest of a student's school career.
The school will pay for the first drug test but after that, the student will be responsible. The program is expected to cost the schools $7,000 a year.
Some say the policy essentially gives students in extracurricular activities a free pass – and contradicts the existing policy, which requires probable cause, is punitive and includes suspensions from the classroom.
"I would like to see to be sure that the two policies gel together, that one policy isn't more heavy than another policy," said parent Mary Schlagel.
One school board member, Jim Hopkins, voted against it. He says with both policies in place it will be hard to punish one child and not the other.
"And I'm telling my colleagues that the next time we go over there in that room it's going to change my vote on what I'm going to do over there," Hopkins said.
But those who stand behind the program say the difference comes down to a random drug test versus a test given because a student showed signs of drug use in school.
"As the committee met to discuss this, we understood that the latter policy involving extracurricular activities would not be as extreme," said school board member Jerry Bledsoe.
The program will begin when school starts but is still being considered a pilot program. The committee will meet with the school board next June to discuss its effectiveness.
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