By Carra Higgins
BECKLEY — If Raleigh County students want to participate in school-related competitive activities or drive to school and park on the property, they will have to submit to the possibility of a drug test.
Raleigh County Board of Education’s members Tuesday approved the new student drug testing policy to be placed on a 30-day comment period. Raleigh County Superintendent Jim Brown said he and board members want input from parents and hopes they become aware and educated about the proposed policy. He added that the board is hopeful the policy will help students say “no” if they are offered drugs or alcohol.
The proposed policy, D.2.11, states that any student in grades 6 through 12 who drives to school, participates in athletics, or an interscholastic competition, including an academic competition team and band, must have on file a signed consent form saying the student can be randomly selected for a drug test. Urine will be how students are tested, and an independent lab will conduct the test. Parents and guardians can also choose to have their child who does not participate in the aforementioned activities placed on the list of those who could be randomly chosen for the test.
Jennifer Colvin, Raleigh County Schools safety director, said she has been told by organization members and business people in the community that they will help fund the drug testing. Colvin told The Register-Herald after the board meeting that the drug testing will cost between $130,000 and $150,000 each year. The cost includes the drug testing and the salary of a person to oversee drug prevention, intervention and support in the county. The names of students who participate in the extracurricular
activities or drive to school will be placed on a list and names will be chosen at random by the independent drug testing company, Colvin explained.
Only students who participate in extracurricular activities, who drive to school or whose parents want their child tested can be asked to submit a urine sample. Colvin said attending school is not a privilege, it is a right; however, participation in activities that do not go toward academic credits are a privilege. Students enrolled in a driver’s education course cannot be placed on the random drug testing list because it is a graded class, she told the board.
Consequences for a positive drug test include showing that the student is receiving drug counseling in order to continue participating in the school activity, suspension from the activity and additional drug screenings.
Students who refuse to submit to a test under the proposed policy will not be eligible to participate in the activities for one calendar year; and, the student will not be considered for any interscholastic activity honors or awards given by the district.
“This is going to be significant,” Brown said.
BOE President Richard Snuffer said “We’re trying to prevent.”
Board member Cynthia Jafary has concerns, however. She said that drug tests can produce false negatives and positives; and, even though a student tests negative for drugs does not mean they aren’t at least the occasional user. If a student takes a drug test that turns out negative, many parents will think that their child is not using drugs, Jafary told other board members.
“There is no better drug test than a caring adult who has their eyes open,” Jafary said. “You are taking the risk of handing out blinders to parents and they will stop looking for signs of abuse.”